The Nebraska Senate Republican primary has become somewhat of a proxy battle of the ongoing war between the establishment and GOP grassroots this cycle — but the contours of the fight aren’t clear-cut.
Midland University President Ben Sasse has the backing of nearly every national conservative group and figure that’s weighed in on the race, but he’s also got deep ties to Washington, having served as an adviser to the secretary of Health and Human Services in the Bush White House.
Former state Treasurer Shane Osborn has reportedly received support from allies of Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), after McConnell had a testy meeting with Sasse that hinged on his willingness to work with the Senate Conservatives Fund, a group McConnell staunchly opposes because of its hardball tactics against establishment Republicans — including the senator himself, whose primary challenger SCF has endorsed.
Still, the establishment-Tea Party divide may ultimately not matter, as a third candidate, banker Sid Dinsdale, looks to be picking up momentum in the final weeks of the race and could orchestrate a surprise win if voters are fed up with all the negativity simmering between Sasse and Osborn.
But for conservative groups, Sasse’s candidacy is a must-win, as they seek an infusion of enthusiasm after facing a number of disappointments in other races. Nebraska's GOP Senate primary won’t matter when it comes to control of the Senate, but it will have far-reaching implications for the battle over the soul of the party.
AR-SEN (PRYOR): Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) will tour areas of Arkansas ravaged by recent tornadoes with President Obama on Wednesday after skipping votes this week to help coordinate federal disaster response.
GA-SEN (OPEN): Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) has cut a robo-call for former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel (R ), who’s she’s endorsed in the race. Handel also won the endorsement of Tea Party Express.
IA-SEN (OPEN): American Heartland PAC, a GOP new outside group, is launching ads attacking “Texas millionaire” businessman Mark Jacobs (R ) and ripping him for previous donations to Democrats. Jacobs is running against state Sen. Joni Ernst (R ) and two other Republicans in a crowded GOP primary. The group also commissioned an automated survey from Harper Polling, obtained by The Hill, that found Ernst with a 33 percent to 23 percent lead in the race.
Jacobs also removed claims that Ernst, an Army reservist, had gone “AWOL” when she missed votes in the legislature from his website after Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) attacked him for using the term. Jacobs reiterated his attack that she’d missed votes, pointing out that just 10 percent of her missed days in Iowa’s session were due to her military service.
KY-SEN (MCCONNELL): In his newest campaign ad, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) takes on criticism that he hasn’t done enough to create jobs in Kentucky, an indication he’s already looking past his primary challenge from businessman Matt Bevin and towards his general election fight with Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes.
MN-SEN (FRANKEN): Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) is out with the first ad of his reelection campaign, a spot featuring a small business owner talking up Franken's work to help her company and others like it.
NE-SEN (OPEN): The Nebraska Republican Senate primary ad war is heating up in the final days as three groups backing Midland University President Ben Sasse launch new ads. Two of the ads tout Sasse’s candidacy — and one of those features conservative star Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) — while the third knocks one of his primary opponents, banker Sid Dinsdale.
OR-SEN (MERKLEY): The Democratic Party of Oregon has filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission against Republican Monica Wehby’s campaign and a super PAC aiding her Senate bid, charging they’ve illegally coordinated messaging in the race because one of the backers of the super PAC is romantically tied to Wehby. Meanwhile, a new poll of the GOP primary shows Wehby ahead of her next-closest primary challenger, state Rep. Jason Conger, by more than 20 points.
BATTLE FOR THE HOUSE
CA-33 (OPEN): Musician Alanis Morissette is wading into politics to help her friend, self-help guru Marianne Williamson, in her independent bid for retiring Rep. Henry Waxman's (D-Calif.) seat.
GA-1 (OPEN): Republican candidate Bob Johnson has apologized after being caught on camera saying that he would “rather see another terrorist attack… than to give up my liberty as an American citizen” in reference to airport screenings by the Transportation Security Administration.
NY-11 (GRIMM): Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.) is facing 20 criminal charges ranging from fraud to perjury, but he still maintains he is "one of the luckiest members of Congress.” That’s what he told radio host Geraldo Rivera on Tuesday, adding that “the support has been overwhelming” from his constituents, despite his arrest.
NY-21 (OPEN): Republican Matt Doheny heads into court Wednesday to address a claim filed against him by a former staffer for workers’ compensation for injuries she suffered in a car accident during his 2012 campaign.
MI-3 (AMASH): Reps. Dave Camp (R-Mich.) and MIke Rogers (R-Mich.) may back businessman Brian Ellis (R), who’s challenging Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.).
MT-AL: Montana House candidate Cory Stapleton (R) is out with an ad featuring his wife talking up his career. Special Forces for America has also made a $60,000 media buy for one of his primary rivals, Ryan Zinke (R), and attacking another, Matt Rosendale (R ), according to Federal Election Commission filings.
CHAMBER LOOKS TOWARDS GENERAL: The Chamber of Commerce is investing more than $3 million on ads for 10 House candidates and incumbents in its first major buy geared towards general elections this cycle. The ads are supporting GOP Reps. Andy Barr (Ky.), Dan Benishek (Mich.), Mike Coffman (Colo.), Chris Gibson (N.Y.), Joe Heck (Nev.) and David Valadao of California, as well as GOP candidates Bob Dold, running for his old seat in Illinois; Stewart Mills, challenging DFL Rep. Rick Nolan in Minnesota; Doug Ose, challenging Rep. Ami Bera (D-Calif.); and Richard Tisei, challenging Rep. John Tierney (D-Mass.).
HAWKEYE HELP: Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) will host a fundraiser for Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad’s (R) reelection in Florida later this month, helping build a relationship with the key early-state power player.
DON’T LOOK AT US: Fearful of a third successive Democratic triumph, concerned Senate Republicans are turning against 2016 presidential bids by upstart hopefuls within their own ranks. In forceful comments to The Hill’s Alexander Bolton GOP senators made it plain that they would much prefer their party nominate a current or former governor over Sens. Ted Cruz (Texas), Marco Rubio (Fla.) or Rand Paul (Ky.).
I’M WITH THEM: Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) is in that camp too. On CNN’s “Crossfire,” the 2012 presidential runner-up made clear he was no fan of Paul’s libertarian brand of politics.
JUST A COINCIDENCE? Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) will campaign this week in South Carolina for Democrat Vincent Sheheen, who’s challenging Gov. Nikki Haley (R). But his visit isn’t all politics -- he’ll be in the early primary state as his daughter graduates this weekend from the College of Charleston.
RAND AND BUSH TOP 2016 FIELD: A CNN survey released Tuesday found Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush top the 2016 GOP presidential pack with 13 percent support each among Republicans and independents who identify with the Republican Party.
THUNE DODGES 2016 TALK: Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) deflected questions on Tuesday over a potential 2016 presidential bid. He said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” when asked whether he has presidential ambitions, “not at the moment” — but he didn’t close the door on the prospect.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“It’s time to burn the beret and bury the blue dress.”
—Monica Lewinsky, breaking her silence in this month’s Vanity Fair on her infamous affair with former President Bill Clinton 16 years ago