Poll: Nebraska Senate GOP primary a dead heat

Midland University President Ben Sasse and former state Treasurer Shane Osborn are in a statistical tie in the Nebraska Senate Republican primary, according to a new survey of the race.

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The poll, conducted by NSON Opinion Strategy for the Tea Party Express, has Sasse taking 29 percent support among likely GOP primary voters and Osborn taking 27 percent. Banker Sid Dinsdale comes in third with 13 percent support.

Sasse and Osborn are seen about equally among likely GOP primary voters, with a net +50 favorable rating for Sasse and +52 for Osborn, but Sasse fares better than Osborn among self-identified “Tea Partiers.”

Seventy percent of those respondents view Sasse favorably, while 4 percent view him unfavorably; in comparison, 65 percent of Tea Partiers view Osborn favorably to 14 percent that view him unfavorably.

That may indicate Osborn's negative attacks on Sasse are taking a toll on his profile among Tea Party voters. While Osborn has launched ads in which he contrasts himself outright with Sasse and criticizes his stance on ObamaCare, Sasse has yet to directly attack Osborn on air.

Still, the race appears to be in flux in its final weeks, as 28 percent of GOP primary voters said they were undecided.

The new survey shows relatively little movement in the race from the only poll conducted independently of the candidates, back in early February. That poll showed Osborn taking 30 percent to Sasse’s 29 percent support.

But a poll out earlier this week from the Sasse campaign showed the candidate surging, taking 31 percent of the vote to Osborn’s 25 percent, and Dinsdale taking 22 percent support.

The Tea Party Express hasn’t yet endorsed in the race, but Sasse has received the backing of nearly every national conservative figure and group that has weighed in on the race. Osborn, however, has charged that Sasse won't be sufficiently opposed to ObamaCare if elected because of his work in the Bush administration on healthcare policy and previous comments on the issue, and has sought to raise questions about Sasse's ties to the state.

The survey was conducted from April 16-20 among 400 likely GOP primary voters and has a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.