Nebraska Republican Senate candidate Shane Osborn charges in his latest TV ad that his main primary opponent, Ben Sasse, only became opposed to ObamaCare after deciding to run for Senate.
Osborn opens the ad with a clip of himself speaking in 2009 at an anti-ObamaCare rally in Omaha, Nebraska.
“That was me, Shane Osborn, speaking out against ObamaCare from the start,” he says in the ad.
Osborn then points to previous comments Sasse has made that appear to have been in favor of the law. As a former adviser to the secretary of Health and Human Services in the George W. Bush White House, Sasse had made numerous speeches and penned op-eds on the law before and after it was passed.
Osborn quotes Sasse as calling ObamaCare an “important first step,” a reference to a 2010 speech Sasse gave to the Fremont Area Health Care Summit. He also points to a Businessweek article from 2009 in which Sasse wrote that “there is an emerging consensus that [the individual mandate] might be a good idea,” as well as comments Sasse made in 2010 that Republicans would be unable to repeal the bill.
Osborn closes the ad by declaring that he approved the ad, “so you know where we really stand.”
But Sasse’s campaign is charging that Osborn took Sasse’s comments out of context and is effectively peddling lies to get elected.
"Here in Nebraska, honesty matters, but Shane Osborn's dishonest attack is proof that he is willing to do and say anything to get elected. Nebraskans know the truth: No one has fought ObamaCare harder than Ben Sasse,” said Tyler Grassmeyer, Sasse’s campaign manager.
Grassmeyer said Sasse was addressing a group of hospital executives and community leaders, many of whom were Democrats, during his 2010 speech, and notes that the candidate roundly criticized the law for failing to address the real issues with the growth of healthcare costs and for failing to fund the reforms it implemented.
In the speech, Sasse’s full statement was that “what we passed in March is an important first step on thinking about the coverage problem in the American healthcare system,” which Grassmeyer said wasn’t praise of the law but rather praise of the debate that the law engendered.
In the Businessweek op-ed, Sasse was asked to predict what the final iteration of the bill might look like, while it was in the works in Senate committees. Sasse, Grassmeyer notes, was simply offering an objective take on the outcome of those debates, and ultimately criticized the secretive and vague process behind the development of the bill.
And Grassmeyer notes that Sasse’s declaration that the GOP would be unable to defund or repeal the bill was simply a statement of fact, and one that has since been acknowledged by other conservative leaders.
The debate over the specifics of Sasse's opposition to the healthcare law has been a sticking point for some conservatives in Nebraska, and initially inspired national conservative groups FreedomWorks to support Osborn — before switching to back Sasse, due to implied support Osborn has been receiving from Sen. Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) allies in the race.
But many other national conservative groups and leaders have touted Sasse's work on health care policy as evidence he'd be the strongest candidate to fight ObamaCare if elected, and Sasse has nabbed the backing of nearly every conservative voice that's weighed in on the primary. Those endorsements have helped Sasse gain traction since entering the race; he lagged Osborn by 11 points in the last poll of the primary.
Osborn, however, picked up the endorsement of the Lincoln Journal Star on Monday, which said he is the only candidate who "has demonstrated that he can" deliver on his campaign promises.
The two are facing three others in the May 13 primary, and whoever wins the nomination is expected to easily hold the seat left vacant by retiring Sen. Mike Johanns (R).