Politics
Former Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum speaks at the National Rifle Association convention in St. Louis, Friday, April 13, 2012. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy) Former Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum speaks at the National Rifle Association convention in St. Louis, Friday, April 13, 2012. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)  

Santorum endorses Bruning in bitter Nebraska GOP Senate primary

Paul Conner
Deputy Editor
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      Paul Conner

      Paul Conner is Deputy Editor with The Daily Caller. Previously, he was a contributing writer for four years with The Greenville News covering high school sports in Upstate South Carolina. A Palmetto State native, he is a graduate of North Greenville University.

Just 12 days before a bitter primary pitting Washington power players against each other, former Sen. Rick Santorum endorsed Republican Nebraska Senate candidate Jon Bruning on Thursday.

When blue-dog Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson announced his retirement in December, Republicans eager to win back a Senate majority immediately saw an opportunity to pick up a valuable seat.

Add a Democratic candidate — former Sen. Bob Kerrey — who has spent most of the last decade directing a liberal arts university in far away New York City, and Republicans hoped for a convincing win.

How they intend to prevail, however, is still a matter of debate a long way from the Midwest. In November, South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint endorsed Bruning’s opponent, State Treasurer Don Stenberg. The Club for Growth’s political action committee pledged its support March 6. Tea party group FreedomWorks, Utah Sen. Mike Lee and radio host Mark Levin have also endorsed Stenberg, the state attorney general.

Two weeks ago, the Chamber of Commerce endorsed Bruning, and Santorum pledged Thursday to campaign with Bruning. He is entering an ugly fight.

In a letter to supporters through the Senate Conservatives Fund, DeMint blasted Washington’s “corporate welfare lobby” for trying to hand the primary election to Bruning.

“With just three weeks to go until Nebraska Republicans head to the polls, the Washington establishment has officially hit the panic button,” DeMint wrote in an  April 24 email. “The Chamber supported the failed stimulus program, the Wall Street bailout, the auto bailout, cash-for-clunkers, as well as many other corporate welfare schemes.”

Both candidates lead Kerry, their Democratic opponent. A Public Policy Polling poll released March 27 shows Bruning leading Kerrey 54-37 in a head-to-head match-up. The same poll shows Stenberg leading Kerrey 52-38 in a one-on-one race.

“Nebraska State Treasurer Don Stenberg is a lifelong fiscal conservative who will be a strong ally of pro-growth senators like Jim DeMint of South Carolina or Mike Lee in Utah,” the Club for Growth said in a statement announcing its support. “First, Treasurer Stenberg must navigate a tough Republican primary against some candidates with suspect fiscal credentials.”

Santorum called Bruning “the strongest conservative candidate to defeat Bob Kerrey in November and help Republicans take back the Senate.”

“As Attorney General, Jon Bruning is leading the fight in Nebraska against Obamacare, and I know he will use that same courageous spirit to repeal Obamacare in the halls of the U.S. Senate,” Santorum said.

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