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Sasse and Ricketts Solid in New Poll

8:49 AM, Apr 15, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
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An excerpt from Bill Kristol's weekly newsletter:

"One private poll I was shown (now however more than a week old), had the Nebraska Senate race between former state treasurer Shane Osborn and Midland University president Ben Sasse even, with the other candidates far behind. Osborn, having previously been elected statewide, began the race with a huge name ID advantage. The fact that Sasse has caught him suggests Sasse has the momentum and is now the favorite (and I gather that subsequent polling shows him pulling ahead). Osborn's campaign has, as a result, unleashed a wave of negative phone calls (of dubious veracity) about Sasse. These could slow his momentum—but Sasse probably has enough money to counteract them and continue to tell his story. Both are impressive candidates—young (Osborn is 39, Sasse 41), conservative, with interesting life experiences—and either would be a fine addition to the Republican Senate conference. But Sasse's distinctive potential to be an intellectual champion in the fight against Obamacare and a legislative leader in developing a conservative reform agenda may well carry the day.

"In the governor's race, too, it looks as if the outsider candidate may beat the candidate who's held elective office before. When Jon Bruning, who's been Nebraska's attorney general for over a decade, entered the race a couple of months ago, he immediately surged to the lead. But now Pete Ricketts, a businessman running as a candidate of change and bringing sound private sector practices to government, has moved slightly ahead (31-27 in the poll I saw), with the other candidates in the 8 to 12 percent range. And I gather the momentum has stayed over the past week with Ricketts, helped in part by a Sarah Palin endorsement. Anything could happen in the six-way race, and the trailing candidates all hope to replicate the achievement of Deb Fischer in 2012, when the two leading candidates (one of whom was Bruning) beat each other up and she surged late from third place to first. But the odds seems to favor Ricketts, who has run a disciplined campaign. He and Sasse seem to embody what GOP primary voters may turn out to want this year—outsiders who are qualified, conservatives who aren't crazy.

"The primary election is May 13 (and there's no runoff—a plurality wins)."

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