As Midland University President Ben Sasse rolled up an easy win in Nebraska's hard-fought, five-way Republican U.S. Senate primary on Tuesday, even supporters of his opponents agreed that the former Bush administration official succeeded by styling himself as the toughest foe of Obamacare.
Sasse won with 49 percent of the vote, while 22 percent went for banker Sid Dinsdale, 21 percent for former state Treasurer Shane Osborn, and the rest for two others. Sasse's nomination is considered tantamount to election this fall in the conservative state for the seat of retiring GOP Sen. Mike Johanns.
"He made a good case that he would fight to repeal and replace Obamacare, and his team sold the case well," former TV anchor Lee Terry, father of the Nebraska GOP congressman also named Lee Terry, told Newsmax. The elder Terry was a strong and early backer of Osborn.
Terry said appearances on Sasse's behalf by GOP Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin in the twilight weeks of the campaign "were very effective. Mike Lee cut a particularly hard-hitting TV spot saying [Sasse] would work with him in Washington to repeal Obamacare."
As for Osborn, Terry said "he made what I felt was a bad mistake never doing advertising to show he was a very good treasurer. Shane was the only candidate in the race to have held public office, and he should have made more of it."
Another Osborn backer, former Omaha Mayor Hal Daub, told Newsmax that "outside groups such as Club for Growth and Senate Conservative Fund were able to penetrate the tea party and libertarian movements sufficiently to orchestrate a win for Ben Sasse."
Daub disputed national media assessments that Sasse was the tea party candidate taking on Osborn, widely characterized as an "establishment" candidate.
"Shane has significant backing among individual tea party groups here in Nebraska," he said. "But Ben Sasse has the backing of national groups and political figures who were important to the tea party movement."
Daub, himself the 1990 Republican nominee for the Senate, said, "We've had some contested Senate primaries here, but this one has really been ugly" — a reference to the Osborn and Sasse camps' battling over who had the better conservative brand.
"It was like the 'whack-a-mole' you used to see at carnivals where a head pops up and you hit it with a hammer," he said.
Daub also noted that Sasse said on Facebook that he would support Mitch McConnell if the Kentucky senator is re-elected and runs again for Senate Republican leader.
"See how fast he runs the other way now," he said. "Now we'll see how Mr. Sasse tries to represent the diversity within the Republican Party in Nebraska. And it won't please some of his supporters."
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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