Can Sasse bridge the gap between the Tea Party and national Republicans? 12:10 AM, May 14, 2014 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
Ben Sasse has just won a decisive victory in the Nebraska Republican Senate primary. As of this writing, the race has been called by the Associated Press and Sasse holds a 27 point lead over his nearest competitor, with 79 percent of precincts reporting. Having clinched the primary win, early polling suggests Sasse will be the likely victor in the general election in November. At 42 years old, Sasse is poised to become the youngest GOP senator.
First profiled in THE WEEKLY STANDARD 11 months ago, the former Bush administration official and current president of Midland University surprised many observers with his rapid political ascent. Sasse started the race at just 3 percent name recognition in the state and ran a nearly textbook campaign, deftly avoiding gaffes and out-fundraising his two main competitors: former Nebraska treasurer Shane Osborn and Omaha banker Sid Dinsdale. (It helped that Dinsdale's momentum came late and Osborn's campaign was plagued by scandal.) As a former assistant secretary of health and human services, Sasse capitalized on his unrivaled health policy expertise by making opposition to Obamacare the major theme of his campaign. Traveling around the state in an RV, Sasse appeared at town halls standing next to a massive nine-and-a-half foot printout of all the pages of the Obamcare legislation.
The Nebraska Senate race and Sasse's role in it, however, has not been without controversy. Many national observers have been keeping a close eye on the race as a proxy war between the Tea Party and the GOP establishment. Sasse was backed early on by the Senate Conservatives Fund, a Tea Party group that was also backing a primary challenge to Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell. As a result, McConnell vowed to "crush" Senate Conservative Fund candidates in the pages of the New York Times. And though the National Republican Senatorial Committee remained officially neutral, it was an open secret that McConnell associates were helping Osborn behind the scenes. (For more background on tension between the Tea Party and establishment in Nebraska, see, "A Big Fight Over Small Differences," from the March 24 issue of THE WEEKLY STANDARD.)
Now many are wondering to what extent Sasse will embrace the national GOP after declaring victory in the primary. In the closing weeks of the Nebraska primary, McConnell denied having anything to do with an out of state PAC that was running extremely negative ads against Sasse after it emerged that the PAC was started by the Kentucky senator's former campaign manager. By this morning, with voting in Nebraska underway, GOP establishment figures seemed to be changing their tune about Sasse and were suddenly suggesting that any perceived hostility toward Sasse's candidacy was unfair. They were also gleeful that Sasse had said on MSNBC this morning that he would support McConnell as majority leader:
“I’m for better conservative ideas and more winsome persuasion,” Mr. Sasse said on MSNBC when asked if he would support Mr. McConnell for leader should he win election to the Senate. “I’m a team player and looking forward to supporting whoever our leader is.”
Though this is being portrayed by some as a stinging rebuke to the Tea Party groups that are backing Sasse and publicly opposed to McConnell, Sasse himself has remained pretty consistent about his posture toward McConnell. This is how National Review Online reported on the tension between the two men last fall:
11:18 AM, May 12, 2014 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
In advance of tomorrow’s Nebraska Republican Senate primary — one of the most hotly contested in the nation — Ben Sasse’s final two television ads note his opposition to Obamacare. The first begins, “Conservatives are rallying in Nebraska against Obamacare and for Ben Sasse,” and it features Sarah Palin speaking in support of Sasse, as well as footage of Ted Cruz, another prominent Obamacare opponent and Sasse supporter. (Paul Ryan, Mike Lee, Rick Santorum, and Tom Coburn have also endorsed Sasse.)
Here’s the ad:
5:04 PM, May 7, 2014 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
Nebraska Senate candidate Shane Osborn seems to have made a habit of, one might say, overreaching during this campaign.
3:05 PM, May 6, 2014 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
Yesterday, I reported on how a super PAC -- Freedom Pioneers Action Network, started by Mitch McConnell's former campaign manager Justin Brasell -- was flooding Nebraska with outside money to take down Tea Party endorsed Senate candidate Ben Sasse. The primary is just a week away and the Sasse campaign said they expected more attacks this week. Well, here is one of them, and it's ugly:
4:01 PM, May 5, 2014 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
With the Nebraska Republican Senate primary a week from tomorrow, outside money is flowing into the state to take down the race's frontrunner, Midland University president Ben Sasse. And the provenance of the money attacking Sasse is especially curious--a super PAC with strong ties to senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell.
9:34 AM, Apr 23, 2014 • By MICHAEL WARREN
Texas senator Ted Cruz has endorsed Ben Sasse in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate in Nebraska. From the Sasse campaign announcement:
“I have gotten to know Ben Sasse, and while Nebraskans have good choices, Ben is the strongest conservative voice running for United States Senate,” said Sen. Cruz. “Ben will not be just another vote in the Senate – he will be a leader in the fight to stop the Obama agenda and repeal ObamaCare from day one. We need strong reinforcements like him in the United States Senate.”
Poll shows Nebraska senate race is a dead heat. 9:19 AM, Apr 9, 2014 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
Nebraska Senate candidate Ben Sasse has been declared "Obamacare's Nebraska Nemesis," and in a new ad Sasse explains why he's personally invested in repealing the law. In 2007, his wife Melissa had an aneurysm followed by an arduous recovery, which left his family with $160,000 in medical bills. Sasse ended up waging a months-long battle against the health insurance system, and Sasse is convinced Obamacare will only make these problems worse:
5:19 PM, Mar 28, 2014 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
In a surprising move, the influential Tea Party group FreedomWorks has withdrawn its endorsement of former Nebraska state treasurer Shane Osborn and is now endorsing former Bush administration official and Midland College president Ben Sasse in the GOP Senate primary. According to a statement from Freedomworks president Matt Kibbe:
10:12 AM, Mar 26, 2014 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
Nebraska Senate Candidate Shane Osborn is a former Navy Lieutenant Commander who was flying a reconnaissance mission in April of 2001 when the EP-3 aircraft he was flying was struck by a Chinese fighter plane. Osborn managed to land the plane safely, but in Chinese territory. This sparked the first of many foreign policy crises during the Bush administration. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for courage and airmanship, and the Meritorious Service Medal for leadership as a result of the episode.
1:02 PM, Mar 23, 2014 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
The Omaha World-Herald has two big stories up today that might impact the hotly contested Nebraska Republican Senate primary between former Bush administration official and Midland College president Ben Sasse and former state treasurer Shane Osborn.
11:25 AM, Mar 14, 2014 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
In the latest issue of THE WEEKLY STANDARD, which went online early this morning, I have an article about the Nebraska Senate race. In a nutshell, the National Republican Senatorial Committee is trying to give a boost to one of the candidates due to some disagreements with outside conservative groups. This is problematic because there are two solid candidates in the race and it's an open primary -- and voters tend to resent meddling by the national party.
The powers behind the Nebraska Republican primary. Mar 24, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 27 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
The National Republican Senatorial Committee is mad as hell, and it’s not going to take it anymore. This is the third election cycle in a row where incumbent Republicans and the NRSC’s hand-picked candidates have faced stiff primary challenges funded by Tea Party groups. No less than Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell is being primaried, and he’s made it clear what he plans to do to groups going after the national GOP.