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The Tea Party’s Nebraska Battleground

Nebraska

As I noted late last week, the Tea Party and its supporting groups has not had a lot of success in its primary challenges so far this year. They fell short in their challenge against John Cornyn in Texas in February, an appear likely to fall short in their races in North Carolina and Kentucky this year. Even the effort to unseat eternal target of the hardcore right Lindsey Graham in South Carolina looks like it will fail later this year. That leaves a handful of Senate races in which the Tea Party can seek to exert its influence this year, and one of those states is Nebraska, where several Republicans are fighting for the right to compete for the seat being vacating by retiring Republican Mike Johanns:

Leading national tea party groups and figures have gone all in for Republican Ben Sasse in the Nebraska Senate race, a high-stakes gambit that could either blunt or bolster their momentum heading into the heart of the 2014 primary season.

With less than two weeks to go until the Republican primary, Sasse has appeared to have moved to the head of a multi-candidate pack featuring two other major hopefuls. There’s a lot resting on the next 10 days not only for Sasse, but also for the likes of the Club for Growth, Senate Conservatives Fund, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and Sarah Palin, who have all joined Sasse in one of the most intense primary campaigns of 2014.

Sasse, the president of Midland University, may represent the best chance for the national tea party movement to claim victory in a contested Senate primary this year. While Republican senators have been swarmed by primary challengers, most have fizzled amid intense scrutiny and a robust attempt by the establishment to define them early as outside the mainstream candidates. The open race in Nebraska presents an opportunity for the tea party to claim an early win against that backdrop.

Sasse is trying to get past former treasurer Shane Osborn (R), a more establishment-friendly figure who has been bludgeoned by Sasse’s tea party allies on the airwaves, clearing the way for Sasse to run a positive air campaign. The two are also competing against Sid Dinsdale, a wealthy bank executive who has emerged as a threat to both candidates down the stretch.

The momentum Sasse has picked up is reflected in the well-heeled advertising push he has planned for the final week. Sasse has reserved approximately  $111,000 for television ads on broadcast and cable — more than double what Osborn, who has been flailing, has thrown down for the final leg.

But Dinsdale, who has been outspent on the airwaves so far, plans to make a big final push, too. Dinsdale campaign manager Beth Kramer said in an interview that the campaign will spend nearly $200,000 for the final week — a sizable sum that could propel him ahead.

(…)

What happens in Nebraska on May 13 could set a tone for other primaries happening soon. A Sasse loss is the last thing tea party groups need heading into a stretch of primaries during the next eight weeks including contests in Kentucky, Mississippi and Kansas, where insurgent conservatives remain underdogs in their quests to defeat incumbent Republican senators.

It would also prompt a fresh round of questions about endorsement criteria. Sasse once supported Medicare Part D, for example, which the Club for growth adamantly opposes.

But a Sasse win could light a fire under the national tea party movement. Tea party groups will soon have another opportunity in an open Oklahoma race, where they have begun to coalesce around former state House speaker T.W. Shannon (R) in a contest looking more competitive for him.

“Our PAC gets involved in lots of races. Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose. In the end, the voters get to decide,” said Club spokesman Barney Keller.

In this race, what Nebraska voters decide will reverberate far beyond the state’s borders.

Most of the polling in the race seems to show Osborne and Sasse in the top two, with Dinsdale surging in the past several months into a third place position that, potentially at least, could push him into a surprise victory on May 13th, much as Deb Fischer managed to overcome her two opponent two pull off a surprise win two years ago. In that case, though, the Tea Party organizations backing Sasse would be faced with a pretty terrifying, for them at least, prospect. By all accounts, the Tea Party backed candidate in tomorrow’s North Carolina, Greg Brannon, is going to lose and will fail to get enough votes to push frontrunner Thom Tillis into a runoff. The May 20th primary in Kentucky between Mitch McConnell and Matt Bevin is basically already over. Over the course of three weeks, the Tea Party movement could suffer three consecutive losses in three weeks, with battles in Mississippi, South Carolina, and Kansas still to come. Such an event would likely have a serious impact on the fundraising ability of these groups since people generally don’t like donating to losing efforts.

So, bring on the elections. It’s going to be an interesting three weeks.

As I noted late last week, the Tea Party and its supporting groups has not had a lot of success in its primary challenges so far this year. They fell short in their challenge against John Cornyn in Texas in February, an appear likely to fall short in their races in North Carolina and Kentucky this year. Even the effort to unseat eternal target of the hardcore right Lindsey Graham in South Carolina looks like it will fail later this year. That leaves a handful of Senate races in which the Tea Party can seek to exert its influence this year, and one of those states is Nebraska, where several Republicans are fighting for the right to compete for the seat being vacating by retiring Republican Mike Johanns:

Leading national tea party groups and figures have gone all in for Republican Ben Sasse in the Nebraska Senate race, a high-stakes gambit that could either blunt or bolster their momentum heading into the heart of the 2014 primary season.

With less than two weeks to go until the Republican primary, Sasse has appeared to have moved to the head of a multi-candidate pack featuring two other major hopefuls. There’s a lot resting on the next 10 days not only for Sasse, but also for the likes of the Club for Growth, Senate Conservatives Fund, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and Sarah Palin, who have all joined Sasse in one of the most intense primary campaigns of 2014.

Sasse, the president of Midland University, may represent the best chance for the national tea party movement to claim victory in a contested Senate primary this year. While Republican senators have been swarmed by primary challengers, most have fizzled amid intense scrutiny and a robust attempt by the establishment to define them early as outside the mainstream candidates. The open race in Nebraska presents an opportunity for the tea party to claim an early win against that backdrop.

Sasse is trying to get past former treasurer Shane Osborn (R), a more establishment-friendly figure who has been bludgeoned by Sasse’s tea party allies on the airwaves, clearing the way for Sasse to run a positive air campaign. The two are also competing against Sid Dinsdale, a wealthy bank executive who has emerged as a threat to both candidates down the stretch.

The momentum Sasse has picked up is reflected in the well-heeled advertising push he has planned for the final week. Sasse has reserved approximately  $111,000 for television ads on broadcast and cable — more than double what Osborn, who has been flailing, has thrown down for the final leg.

But Dinsdale, who has been outspent on the airwaves so far, plans to make a big final push, too. Dinsdale campaign manager Beth Kramer said in an interview that the campaign will spend nearly $200,000 for the final week — a sizable sum that could propel him ahead.

(…)

What happens in Nebraska on May 13 could set a tone for other primaries happening soon. A Sasse loss is the last thing tea party groups need heading into a stretch of primaries during the next eight weeks including contests in Kentucky, Mississippi and Kansas, where insurgent conservatives remain underdogs in their quests to defeat incumbent Republican senators.

It would also prompt a fresh round of questions about endorsement criteria. Sasse once supported Medicare Part D, for example, which the Club for growth adamantly opposes.

But a Sasse win could light a fire under the national tea party movement. Tea party groups will soon have another opportunity in an open Oklahoma race, where they have begun to coalesce around former state House speaker T.W. Shannon (R) in a contest looking more competitive for him.

“Our PAC gets involved in lots of races. Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose. In the end, the voters get to decide,” said Club spokesman Barney Keller.

In this race, what Nebraska voters decide will reverberate far beyond the state’s borders.

Most of the polling in the race seems to show Osborne and Sasse in the top two, with Dinsdale surging in the past several months into a third place position that, potentially at least, could push him into a surprise victory on May 13th, much as Deb Fischer managed to overcome her two opponent two pull off a surprise win two years ago. In that case, though, the Tea Party organizations backing Sasse would be faced with a pretty terrifying, for them at least, prospect. By all accounts, the Tea Party backed candidate in tomorrow’s North Carolina, Greg Brannon, is going to lose and will fail to get enough votes to push frontrunner Thom Tillis into a runoff. The May 20th primary in Kentucky between Mitch McConnell and Matt Bevin is basically already over. Over the course of three weeks, the Tea Party movement could suffer three consecutive losses in three weeks, with battles in Mississippi, South Carolina, and Kansas still to come. Such an event would likely have a serious impact on the fundraising ability of these groups since people generally don’t like donating to losing efforts.

So, bring on the elections. It’s going to be an interesting three weeks.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. C. Clavin says:

    “…the Tea Party and its supporting groups has not had a lot of success in its primary challenges so far this year…”

    Huh…if it ain’t selling then maybe what they’re selling is nonsense.
    Just sayin’

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  2. cd6 says:

    I’m not a Nebraska voter, folks, but it seems to me there’s one thing and one thing only that matters. Where do these candidate stand on The Obama Adminstrations attempts to lie to the American Public, hide the truth, and distort reality. I am talking, of course, about Benghazi. Also the death panels a little bit and also fast and furious and the IRS but mostly Benghazi right now.

    What say you, Sasse? Or Oburn? I already forgot the names, and I don’t have time to scroll back up and read em again. Is Obama “guilty of treason” or is he “REALLY guilty of treason?”

    Nebraska is right in the middle of the homeland so hopefully Nebraskans do the right thing, step up, and pick a winner. And resist ACORN and the Black Panthers and Doug Mataconis’ attempts to use dirty tricks to muddy the waters.

    Cruz / Palin ’16
    GO GOP

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 1

  3. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @cd6:

    Is Obama “guilty of treason” or is he “REALLY guilty of treason?”

    The better question is, “Are you guilty of stupidity?” but then, we already have our answer.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 5

  4. Franklin says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: cd6 is a troll, sometimes mildly amusing (see other posts in the past 24 hours or so). What frustrates me is that I can never think of the name of the original OTB troll (his posts sounded not unlike cd6’s, to be honest) – anyone?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  5. Cd6 says:

    @Franklin:

    I had to take 2 years off or so cause I was busy

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  6. Moosebreath says:

    @Franklin:

    “his posts sounded not unlike cd6′s, to be honest”

    His posts sound like The Evil Midnight Bomber What Bombs at Midnight to me.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  7. grumpy realist says:

    Having lived in Nebraska, I’m mildly surprised that the Tea Party is getting that much traction there. Johanns is pretty much a Rockefeller Republican and has been pretty popular. Nebraskans aren’t very loud about anything. There’s a definite stance of “leave me alone”, but they also want their government to work and are quite pragmatic about it.

    The REAL religion in Nebraska is football.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  8. sam says:

    I think Cd6 might be Triumph (after the famous insult comic dog) . The guy was a lot more than a little amusing. Cruz/Palin …

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  9. Neil Hudelson says:

    @sam:

    Yeah, Triumph was great. No one else has really been able to humor-troll like him. I wonder why he left.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  10. Tony W says:

    @sam:

    I think Cd6 might be Triumph (after the famous insult comic dog) .

    I’m going with a reincarnation of Jonathan Swift

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  11. An Interested Party says:

    I wonder why he left.

    Because the reality of the Tea Party types outdid anything he could have written…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  12. mantis says:

    cd6 is doing some high quality parody trolling there, folks. Top notch.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  13. Grewgills says:

    @An Interested Party:
    Yup, Poe killed him. I keep waiting for it to take out Bit and Jenos, but I’m starting to think they’re serious.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0