Nebraska Senate Race Pits McConnell Against Cruz, Tea Party

Tuesday, 13 May 2014 08:35 AM

By Melissa Clyne

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Nebraska tea party Republican Ben Sasse, who is leading in the polls, is targeting Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and the GOP establishment as part of his campaign to win a U.S. Senate seat in the Cornhusker State, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The primary is today. Its outcome is being closely monitored to see whether 2014 voters go with the old guard establishment — McConnell — or the new wave of tea party conservatives, namely Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who has campaigned for Sasse.

Sasse, president of Midland University, also has the backing of tea party darlings Sarah Palin and Utah Sen. Mike Lee. He’s banking that positioning himself as an outsider will curry favor with voters. It’s a risky proposition, according to the Journal, considering the tea party is struggling in places such as Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, and Mississippi and just lost the Republican Senate primary in North Carolina.

But Sasse is not holding back. While outside groups have funneled $3 million into the race, tea party super PACs are responsible for 80 percent of that amount, according to the Omaha World-Herald, adding that it’s part of a national push to try to win seats in red states with contested primaries.

A McConnell-linked group came in late in the race, spending $207,000 attacking Sasse, according to the Journal.

Sasse ads have attacked his opponents, former state treasurer Shane Osborn and Omaha banker Sid Dinsdale, both of whom have openly pledged their support to McConnell, the Journal reported.

The race’s negative tone "has been striking in a state that prizes its political politeness," according to the Journal, noting that the World-Herald has twice editorialized about negative ads funded by out-of-state groups.

Sasse is painting himself as "anti-regulation, anti-Obamacare, and pro-gun rights," according to Fox News.

"I think we need to elect more people who want to make Washington less important," he told the Fremont Tribune, Fox reported.

Nebraska Sen. Deb Fischer, a Republican, has been critical of the negative tone the ads for the seat being vacated by retiring Republican Sen. Mike Johanns have taken.

"I hope that candidates will be positive, and I believe that Nebraskans are going to see through this stuff coming from outside groups and realize that these folks don't decide our elections," she told the World-Herald. "Nebraskans decide our elections."

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