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Anti-Obamacare Candidate Bridges Tea Party and Establishment Divide

'We want everybody; we want to grow the conservative movement.'

11:33 AM, Nov 8, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
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Ben Sasse is doing what few Republicans have been able to accomplish: He's uniting the GOP establishment with anti-establishment conservatives in his bid to become the next U.S. senator from Nebraska. 

Ben Sasse

Ben Sasse

Newscom

The broad coalition Sasse is building is something the Nebraskan is proud of -- and it's an element of his campaign he's been actively pursuing. "We're building a broad conservative coalition of Nebraskans who want to fix Washington," says Sasse in an email. 

"We're grateful that all types of folks across Nebraska are responding to our conservative, solutions-oriented message.  This week, for instance, we've sought the support of gun owners, of Christian service organizations, and of the Chamber of Commerce.  We want everybody; we want to grow the conservative movement."

The key appears to be Sasse's anti-Obamacare message, which the former Bush official is able to speak about fluidly and persuasively. It's resonating especially well now that the open-enrollment period for the massive health care overhaul has been so disastrous.

“Ben Sasse is the rare candidate who can clearly and forcefully prosecute the case against Obamacare, not only because it’s an unconstitutional assault on our liberty, but also because he’s read every word of it,” Club for Growth president Chris Chocola said this week in a statement endorsing the candidate.

Sasse is a former official from the George W. Bush administration, where he worked at the Department of Health and Human Services. "Ben served as start-up chief of staff for Congressman Jeff Fortenberry, and was appointed to multiple posts by President George W. Bush. Most recently, he was Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which is unfortunately the federal government’s largest agency. In that role, he crusaded tirelessly against the false promises and fiscal unsustainability of entitlement spending," reads his official bio.

He's also recently picked up the endorsement of the Senate Conservative Fund (SCF), an anti-establishment group that's targeted Republicans like Mitch McConnell. 

And next week he'll be meeting with that top Republican, Mitch McConnell, in the Senate. "He is meeting with Sasse just as he meets with virtually all GOP Senate candidates," says a source close to McConnell. "I think he's coming to town next week so it will probably be there."

But though Sasse has strong establishment credentials (and even establishment support), it's not clear McConnell will count himself among those supporters. The big hurdle: The endorsement by the SCF, which appears to be shading his judgment of the “virtuoso pol from Nebraska.”

“It's safe to say that McConnell doesn't hold the Senate Conservatives Fund in high regard,” says a source close to McConnell. “He hasn't met Sasse however so he'll reserve judgment until they've had the opportunity to speak.”

Sasse is running against former state treasurer Shane Osborn.

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