Ben Sasse

Mitch McConnell and the “Republican brand”

TL;DR: Mitch McConnell feels threatened by principled conservatives and feels that they’re ruining the “Republican brand” by challenging him and other establishment Republicans. But really, the “Republican brand” is in shambles, and it’s time to re-define that brand to return to small-government principles.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) isn’t a happy camper these days. He’s locked in both a contentious primary and general election fight, losing rule battles against his Democratic counterpart, and has to contend with some members of his own party who are constantly willing to stand on principle, rather than the party line.

“The ‘Republican brand’ was severely damaged several years ago. That was largely due to dissatisfaction with President George W. Bush, an unpopular war, and corruption in Congress.”

The rise of the Tea Party movement and conservative organizations have created havoc for McConnell and Republican leadership in the chamber, who enjoyed mostly distant rumblings from the political right in the past. But over the last few months, there has been a tiff between the Kentucky Republican and the Senate Conservatives Fund (SCF) that has now boiled over into the public.

Today in Liberty: Tea Party picks up a Senate seat, Obama’s war on coal to hit consumers

“President Obama won the youth vote 3 to 1, but I don’t think he’s got a permanent hold on the youth vote. I think if we bring to them that message, that ‘You know what? What you do on your cell phone is none of the government’s damn business.’” — Rand Paul

— Ben Sasse, Tea Party win in Nebraska: Ben Sasse took 49.4 percent of the vote in the Nebraska Republican Senate primary, easily defeating Sid Dinsdale and Shane Obsorn. Sasse was backed by big-name conservative and Tea Party groups, while Osborn had the quiet backing of the Republican establishment. “Congratulations to Ben Sasse on his victory tonight in Nebraska. Ben is a problem solver who will be a conservative voice in our effort to repeal ObamaCare and bring much needed fiscal sanity to the Senate,” said NRSC Chairman Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS). “Ben Sasse is a results-oriented leader whom I know will fight for Nebraska and be a great advocate for the Cornhusker State in the Senate. I look forward to working alongside of Ben in the Senate next year in a Republican majority.” Club for Growth President Chris Chocola hailed Sasse as a champion of economic liberty, noting that he “won a hard-fought primary by building his campaign on the simple idea that ObamaCare is a disaster that needs to be repealed,” adding that “Ben clearly articulated a conservative vision to Nebraska voters who rewarded him with their votes.”

Sickening: Group with ties to Mitch McConnell attacks conservative candidate’s family

Sasse Screengrab

Over at the Weekly Standard, Mark Hemingway raises the red flag on an ad that seems to attack a candidate’s family. Freedom Pioneers Action Network, a SuperPAC whose Treasurer is Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s former campaign manager, released the following ad:

Hemingway suggests the ad does something that’s “normally considered out of bounds” for political attack ads by showing a clip from this ad featuring Ben Sasse’s two daughters. He also the quote used is taken completely out of context, and the newspaper to which the quote is attributed agrees:

In another case, our reporting of the conference does contain a portion of a quote from Mr. Sasse that uses the words “an important first step.” …

NE Senate: Republican primary heats up between Osborn, Sasse

 "Nebraska Way"

The Republican Senate primary in Nebraska has been one of the more interesting races of the current cycle. This comes down to  Shane Osborn, a former state treasurer and Navy veteran, against Ben Sasse, a former Bush administration official and college president.

The primary race had remained cordial and issues focused. Politico noted last month that “the Nebraska Senate candidates are trying to avoid the appearance of running negative campaigns, adding that the four candidates in the race “kept their focus on Obama rather than each other” at a recent debate.

“They do not want a repeat of Nebraska’s 2012 Senate primary, when little-known Deb Fischer won a crowded primary after the front-runners, backed by millions in outside money, spent weeks attacking each other,” Politico added.

Once considered the frontrunner in the race, Osborn is now trying to beat back Sasse, who seemingly has the momentum in his corner, thanks to a string of high-profile endorsements from Republicans and outside conservative groups.

The race is no longer as friendly as it once seemed. Osborn and Sasse are trying to label each other as a “D.C insider,” hoping to hit the nerves of populist voters. That back and forth spilled over last week when Osborn ran an ad in which he called Sasse a “Washington Bureaucrat” and slammed the presence of “special interests in Washington.”

NE Senate: FreedomWorks reverses course, endorses Ben Sasse

Citing input from conservative activists in the state, FreedomWorks PAC announced this afternoon that it had decided to withdraw its support of Shane Osborn and endorse Ben Sasse in the race for Nebraska open U.S. Senate seat.

“Both Osborn and Sasse are great people, and this was not a decision taken lightly,” said FreedomWorks PAC President Matt Kibbe in a statement. “The question at the heart of this decision is, who would caucus with the Freedom Caucus, and who would fall in line with the establishment?”

“At this point, it is clear that Shane Osborn formed allegiances with Mitch McConnell and the K Street lobbying class. For us, that progression away from the grassroots has tipped the balance. FreedomWorks PAC has a responsibility to endorse the most reliable candidate for liberty, and after following the evolution of this primary, it’s clear that Ben Sasse is the man for the job,” he added.

The organization endorsed Osborn in November, saying in a statement that “Shane’s dedication to constitutional principles and a return to fiscal sanity is beyond reproach.”

FreedomWorks had previously published commentary taking aim at Sasse on the healthcare issue, stating that he “support[ed] the basic principles of Obamacare” and and accused the candidate of backing “something akin to Romneycare” as a replacement.

NE Senate: Anti-Obamacare Republican briefly aided pro-Obamacare firm

Ben Sasse has built his entire U.S. Senate campaign around the anti-Obamacare sentiment that runs deep in Nebraska. In a recent profile of the Nebraska Republican, the National Review, a conservative magazine, called him “Obamacare’s Cornhusker nemesis.”

“The Obamacare worldview is that only government can solve big problems, budget honesty doesn’t matter, and dependency is our future,” Sasse told the magazine, later adding that Republicans can repeal the law if they achieve electoral success in the next couple of cycles.

Sasse’s anti-Obamacare rhetoric, background and credentials has netted him support from several high-profile conservative personalities and groups, including Sarah Palin, Erick Erickson, the Club for Growth, and Senate Conservatives Fund. Last month, Breitbart ran a story claiming that health industry lobbyists “are making a concerted effort to sink the campaign of the Nebraska Republican.”

But the narrative that Sasse, who worked at HHS and the Justice Department, has tried to build around himself may take a hit. Politico reported this morning that the anti-Obamacare candidate once consulted with a firm that helped implement the law.

Sarah Palin rolls out first round of 2014 endorsements

Sarah Palin, former Governor of Alaska and 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee, has rolled out her first endorsements of the 2014 mid-term election cycle, hailing each of her picks as the “conservative” choice in their respective races.

In a post on her Facebook page on Wednesday, Palin, who has substantial sway in the conservative movement, told her 4-plus million fans that her endorsements would be announced in “in coming days.”

“I’m excited to announce that big U.S. Senate and House of Representatives endorsements are on the way!” Palin wrote. “Lots of vetting and research goes into these endorsements because this is for YOU. It’s to allow you to take a closer look at good men and women with servants’ hearts who are willing to get in the rough and tumble arena to help save America.”

Palin weighed in on three U.S. Senate races, all of which are expected to remain in Republican hands this fall. She began the string of endorsements, done in coordination with her political action committee, with T.W. Shannon, who is seeking the Republican nomination in Oklahoma, on Wednesday and announced two more on Thursday. She posted graphics with each endorsement, which have been included below.

“Tom Coburn leaves large conservative shoes to fill as he retires from the U.S. Senate. At 6’5 feet tall, T.W. Shannon is just the leader to fill them,” Palin wrote. “T.W. is the underdog in his race, but that’s not a position he’s unfamiliar with. He’s had to beat the odds all of his life.”

Today in Liberty: Lois Lerner to appear before committee, Alan Grayson accused of domestic battery

“In government, the scum rises to the top.” — F.A. Hayek

— Disgraced IRS official to appear before Oversight committee: Lois Lerner, the ex-IRS official at the center of the agency’s targeting of conservative groups, will appear before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee this morning at 9:30. Though Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) said Lerner would testify, her lawyer has denied that claim. You can livestream the hearing here. Should be fun.

NE Senate: Republican candidate slams Obama’s executive overreach

Ben Sasse

In a video from his campaign, Ben Sasse, a Republican running for Nebraska’s open Senate seat, blasted President Barack Obama’s so-called “administrative fix” that could mitigate some of the insurance cancellations that Americans have experienced because of Obamacare. The fix, however, is emblematic of a larger problem, as Sasse explained.

“The President did not actually fix anything. But he did provide a constitutional crisis,” said Sasse. “Understand, President Obama cannot legally do what he proposed to do [last week] and them media let him get away with claiming.”

“He can’t fix part of a law by fiat. Our President is not a king. He doesn’t get to make decrees. He doesn’t even have a line-item veto under our current system of government,” he continued. “The only branch of government under our Constitution that has any power to change this law is the Congress.”

NE Senate: Club for Growth endorses Ben Sasse

Ben Sasse

The Club for Growth, a pro-free market group that endorses and invests in GOP primaries, has endorsed Ben Sasse in the Republican primary for the open U.S. Senate seat in Nebraska.

“Ben Sasse is the rare candidate who can clearly and forcefully prosecute the case against Obamacare, not only because it’s an unconstitutional assault on our liberty, but also because he’s read every word of it,” said Club for Growth President Chris Chocola.

“We need more Senators like Ben Sasse who will stand on principle to challenge the big-government status quo in Washington and his unique skill-set makes him ideal for the job. Club members look forward to strongly supporting Ben Sasse for the U.S. Senate,” he added.

Sasse, 41, has served as president of Midland University since 2010 and has some past experience in politics and government, working as chief of staff to Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) and as an appointed official in the Justice Department (2003-2005) and Health and Human Services (2007-2009) during the Bush Administration. He announced his Senate candidacy last month, calling himself the anti-Obamacare candidate.

“If [Obamacare] lives, America as we know it will die. If the idea of America is to live, it must be stopped,” Sasse said in his formal campaign announcement last month, according to the Omaha World-Herald. He raised $815,000 in the third quarter of the year, an impressive haul for a first-time candidate on his first disclosure.

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