Nebraska’s primary for U.S. Senate takes place today, and Ben Sasse appears to be the front-runner.
And because Sasse is endorsed by the Senate Conservatives Fund, and Sen. Ted Cruz, and Sarah Palin (and got on the wrong side of Mitch McConnell – though there’s little evidence McConnell actually worked against him), it is assumed he will be another scorched-earth tea party Senator.
But don’t count on this university president and former Bush administration official to go shutting down the government any time soon.
Consider this interview today with Chuck Todd:
Expect some observers to make a big deal out of the McConnell comments, but I think his more telling words were these: “I’m for better conservative ideas and more winsome persuasion, and getting to a majority. So obviously, I’m a team player…”
(Note: I think he said “winsome,” but let me know if I’m hearing that wrong.)
My interpretation? Sasse may be a solid conservative, but he’s also a serious problem solver. These things are not mutually exclusive. As such, my guess is that Sasse will be more pragmatic than some of his conservative fans today might expect, which is not a bad thing; Ronald Reagan was also quite pragmatic.
So where might Sasse fit in? Don’t forget that Senators including Kelly Ayotte, Marco Rubio, Pat Toomey, Rand Paul, and Jeff Flake were all, to one degree or another, considered “tea party” favorites and conservative darlings. Expect Sasse to fit in well as a serious, mainstream conservative Republican who is sincerely interested in solving problems and passing good legislation.
There’s something else important we can derive from Sasse’s comments today, though.
Sometimes the process of enduring a rigorous campaign reveals as much about the character of the candidates as it does about their political ideology. Along those lines, Shane Osborn ended his campaign in somewhat shameful fashion, by demagoguing the immigration issue, and stoking the Republican civil war.
Conversely, Ben Sasse ends his race today in a gracious and classy manner — as a uniter, not a divider.