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So things have been getting a little interesting in the Nebraska U.S. Senate race.  As you may or may not know, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R. KY) has had a bone to pick with former Senator Jim DeMint's (R. SC) group, the Senate Conservatives Fund.  Specifically with their preferred candidate, Ben Sasse (R. NE):


Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) "lit into" Midland University President and Nebraska Senate candidate Ben Sasse in a private sit-down meeting for associating himself with the Senate Conservatives Fund, according to a report in National Review on Monday.

Sasse, who is running in the Republican primary for Senate, sat down with McConnell on November 12 to try and extinguish some tension between the two over his association with SCF and also a YouTube video Sasse posted in which he said that called for "every Republican in Washington, starting with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, to show some actual leadership." SCF has endorsed Sasse in the Republican primary for retiring Sen. Mike Johanns's (R-NE) Senate seat.

But instead of burying the hatchet, McConnell, according to National Review criticized Sasse both for his ties to SCF and the YouTube video. McConnell also asked Sasse about when he first started talking to SCF executive director Matt Hoskins. - TPM, 11/25/13

Gotta love seeing Republicans get catty with each other and that could hurt their chances of taking back the U.S. Senate:


However, McConnell's war is not an isolated battle. By challenging the Tea Party in a public manner, he's forcing other GOP candidates to pick sides. Like with Sasse, candidates cannot simultaneously receive support from conservative groups and have the minority leader's blessing. As Strong writes, "being Switzerland isn’t really an option."

This is a risky strategy for McConnell. He's starting a GOP civil war, something Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has long tried to avoid. The rift in the party could have electoral consequences. An onslaught of negative ads both aimed at and produced by Republicans will hurt the party as a whole and nasty, divisive primaries could cause some Republicans to stay home in the general election.

Boehner repeatedly capitulated to the Tea Party during the government shutdown, because the greatest risk to the House GOP's majority was a civil war. He had no choice, but to appease them. With Obamacare's disastrous launch, the chances of Democrats retaking the House have fallen to zero. Now, Republicans have a huge opportunity to take back the Senate. But McConnell's tactics could reduce those chances.

This was the war that Boehner has been trying to avoid for years. McConnell is now welcoming it. In the crossfire are candidates like Ben Sasse who are looking to keep the support of both the establishment and conservative groups. McConnell has now made it clear that that's not an option. How these campaigns unfold will determine who really is in control of the Republican Party, but could cost the GOP its chance to win back the Senate as well. - Business Insider, 11/25/13

McConnell's role in this race highlights how divided and nasty GOP primaries could get next year.  In Nebraska, conservative groups have two dogs in this race:


The sleepy race drew national attention on Tuesday when former state Treasurer Shane Osborn broke a prominent national conservative group away from the conservative pack, gaining the endorsement of FreedomWorks. Two other groups, Senate Conservatives Fund and the Club for Growth, endorsed his opponent, Midland University President Ben Sasse.

Establishment Republicans are focused on more competitive 2014 races and aren’t expected to engage heavily in the race because there’s no risk of a weak candidate losing the seat for the GOP.

Democrats haven’t fronted a candidate for the Nebraska seat, which is coming open with the retirement of Sen. Mike Johanns (R).

The lack of a threat from Democrats makes Nebraska a good opportunity, however, for conservative groups to put their thumb on the scale for the candidate of their choosing.

FreedomWorks hasn’t yet indicated how extensively it plans to engage in the primary, but its Vice President of Public Policy Dean Clancy said the group is “fully committed to” electing Osborn.

The central issue in the group’s endorsement, Clancy said, was Sasse’s insufficient opposition to ObamaCare.

“Sasse is doing a great ‘Wizard of Oz’ impression, presenting himself as an
anti-ObamaCare firebrand, but behind the curtain he is a Mitt Romney-style technocrat who would replace Obama-Care with more ObamaCare,” he said.

But Sasse has made his opposition to the healthcare law a central tenet of his campaign. He was labeled the “anti-ObamaCare candidate” by conservative outlet Breitbart.com. - The Hill, 11/13/13

Now here's where things get a little tricky:


Republican Ben Sasse landed the backing Wednesday of former House Majority Leader Dick Armey of Texas — a few days after a group originally founded by Armey backed former State Treasurer Shane Osborn.

Osborn and Sasse are two of four Republicans seeking the GOP nomination in the May primary. The two have been competing for endorsements from some of the nation's most conservative groups, many of them associated with the Tea Party movement.

Earlier this fall, Sasse landed the endorsements of both Club for Growth and the Senate Conservatives Fund.

On Monday, Osborn fired back with an endorsement from FreedomWorks, a Tea Party-­affiliated group that said Osborn had the “courage and conviction” to stand up to the “Washington elite.”

Armey was one of the original founders of FreedomWorks but left after a feud with its president.

The FreedomWorks endorsement made it clear that the group viewed the four-way race as a battle between Sasse and Osborn. In its release, the group took a swipe at Sasse's educational history. Sasse, the president of Midland University, has attended Harvard, Yale and Oxford.

Matt Kibbe, president of FreedomWorks, said: “The Senate does not need more smart people with generally nice sounding ideas, it needs heroes. The time for giant voices and strong principles is now. Shane Osborn has proven himself to be all these things and more.” - Omaha World-Herald, 11/14/13

Now here's the part that is both hilarious and infuriating:


ADVANCE FOR WEEKEND, AUG. 17-18 - In this June 5, 2013, photo, Midland University President Ben Sasse points to a feature on campus in Fremont, Neb. More than 600 of Midland&#x27;s nearly 1,100 students are on one of its 25 sports teams. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
In a recent interview with Slate's Dave Weigel Sasse, the president of Midland University, said he had always been opposed to the Medicare prescription drug benefit commonly referred to as Medicare Part D. Weigel asked about his stance on it when Sasse served assistant secretary of Health and Human Services in then President George W. Bush's administration.

"I was opposed to it then and I'm opposed to it now," Sasse said in response.

Here's the thing though: The Washington Post reported Wednesday that in 2009 (after he had left the Bush administration) Sasse argued in an op-ed for U.S. News and World Report that the nation should use the Medicare Part D as a sort of guide or model to reform the country's healthcare system. Sasse wrote in the op-ed that "Medicare Part D is (or should be) a policymaker's dream: a government program that efficiently delivers high quality services, and does so under budget."

Asked about the op-ed, Sasse campaign manager Tyler Grassmeyer told the Post that the Senate candidate opposes Medicare Part D but, Grassmeyer added, "of all the entitlement programs … Part D has by far the best free market mechanisms." - TPM, 11/13/13

Yeah, and this guy is backed by this guy:


Rep. Paul Ryan, the 2012 Republican vice presidential nominee and chairman of the House Budget Committee, on Thursday formally endorsed Ben Sasse in Nebraska's 2014 Republican Senate race.

Ryan's statement of support followed on the heels of a report that his leadership PAC contributed $5,000 to Sasse's campaign last month.

"Ben Sasse is a true conservative who will help America move forward," Ryan said. "He strongly believes in our founding principles.

"And he fully understands the need to repeal Obamacare and offer real patient-oriented reforms," Ryan said. "That's why we need him in the Senate." - Lincoln Journal Star, 11/21/13

So yeah, this primary is going to become very entertaining.  It's funny that the GOP firmly believes they have nothing to lose from getting nasty and divisive with each other.  Sadly, they might be right in thinking that.  Whoever they nominate is sure to be a lunatic.  But it will be interesting who's the nuttiest one of all.  Stay tuned.

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Originally posted to pdc on Tue Nov 26, 2013 at 08:16 PM PST.

Also republished by The Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party.

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