Nebraska Senate Race Key to Tea Party Strategy

Sunday, 04 May 2014 05:19 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Major stakes are involved in Nebraska's Republican primary, with national tea party groups and figures backing Republican Ben Sasse as their best hope for a Senate victory this election season.

Sasse, with less than two weeks to go until the May 13 primary, appears to be leading two other hopefuls for the Senate seat, in a race that's brought the Club for Growth, the Senate Conservatives Fund, Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, and former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin out to back Sasse, reports The Washington Post

If Sasse takes the nomination, it will give the national tea party movement much-needed momentum heading into this year's midterm elections.

Sasse, the president of Midland University, is campaigning against former state treasurer Shane Osborn, a mainstream candidate, and Sid Dinsdale, a bank executive who is considered a threat to both Sasse and Osborn.

Sasse's campaign is saving its big guns for the final week, reserving around $110,000 for television ads — more than double what Osborn plans to spend.

But Dinsdale may outspend Sasse. His campaign manager, Beth Kramer, said the Dinsdale campaign will spend nearly $200,000 on the last-minute push.

Palin, Cruz, and their fellow tea party favorite, Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee, stumped for Sasse last week, and Freedomworks, a group that initially backed Osborn, switched to Sasse.

In addition, Sasse has the backing of the Nebraska Farm Bureau, a key endorsement in the agriculture-industry state.

But the race has been heated, including attacks from Osborn that called Sasse soft on
Obamacare, a claim Sasse's campaign says took his words out of contact. To respond, Sasse launched his own ad, having his daughters defend his words against Obamacare and saying they "always pray for the opposing candidates at breakfast."

The Club for Growth has also attacked Osborn's job as treasurer, pointing out the state auditor found found "mismanagement, waste and unreasonable spending."

In addition, the 60 Plus Association, backing Sasse, has criticized Osborn's military record.

But Dinsdale has also been attacked, with conservative blogger Erick Erikson, a Sasse supporter, accusing Dinsdale's relatives of having ties with groups that support abortion.

If Sasse wins, it could boost tea party groups as they head into contests in Kentucky, Mississippi, and Kansas, where their candidates are underdogs in races against incumbent Republican senators.

Tea party groups are also starting to gather around former state House Speaker T.W. Shannon in Oklahoma, and Club spokesman Barney Keller pointed out that his PAC is involved in numerous races.

"Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose. In the end, the voters get to decide," said Keller.

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