Nebraska Republican Senate candidate Ben Sasse said he is “absolutely” comfortable backing Sen. Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellStudy: Trump tops recent GOP presidents in signing bills in first 100 days Senate passes stopgap funding bill to avert shutdown Let’s never talk about a government shutdown — ever again MORE (R-Ky.) as the Republican caucus leader, despite McConnell’s reported opposition to his candidacy.
“You know, we’ve said from the beginning of this race that the voters of Nebraska get to make their choice today, and we don’t deal with speculative stuff, a little out in front. But obviously, I’m for better conservative ideas and more winsome persuasion and getting to a majority, so obviously I’m a team player and looking forward to support whoever our leader is,” he said.
Pushed on whether he was comfortable backing McConnell, Sasse said “absolutely.”
“I mean, the national media loves the idea of playing up this intra-Republican Party kinda civil war stuff, but it’s just not what Nebraskans are talking about on the ground. It’s been pretty overblown in our race,” he said.
National Review reported early in the primary that McConnell and Sasse had a testy exchange during a private meeting that centered around Sasse’s previous criticism of McConnell and support from the Senate Conservatives Fund, which is backing McConnell’s primary challenger.
Allies of McConnell subsequently boosted the campaign of Sasse’s main opponent, former state Treasurer Shane Osborn, by helping him raise money. An outside group with ties to McConnell also spent a reported $207,000 on advertising attacking Sasse in the final leg of the race.
That implicit support for Osborn inspired FreedomWorks to switch their endorsement from him to Sasse midway through the race, because, the group said, they felt Osborn would be more likely to work with the D.C. establishment.
Sasse previously had declined to say whether he’d back McConnell as leader.
But the Midland University president remains the prohibitive front-runner Tuesday night and is favored to nab the nomination and go on to easily win the seat in November — a prospect that likely inspired his decision to bury the hatchet with McConnell.
In an email, McConnell's top political advisor, Josh Holmes, praised Nebraska's slate of Republican offerings for Senate.
"Nebraska has outstanding Republican candidates to choose from and Sen. McConnell looks forward to congratulating whoever wins this evening," he said.