Winning Tea Party Candidate Avoids Bashing Establishment GOPers


Ben Sasse, the newly-minted Republican nominee for Senate in Nebraska, has had a few chances to ding establishment Republicans in the last 24 hours but he hasn’t taken them.

Sasse won the nomination decisively Tuesday night. Earlier in the day he was asked on MSNBC whether he would support Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) as Republican leader again. Sasse, who had been scolded by McConnell for associating closely with the Senate Conservatives Fund, at first, tried to dodge giving a straight answer but then, when pressed, said he would “absolutely” support McConnell.

After Sasse was declared the winner in the GOP primary, he called McConnell. The call was the first time they had talked since their meeting in 2013, according to a GOP source.

“Sasse offered his help to do anything he could to help elect a Republican majority in other states, he said he’d go anywhere and work for anybody.” the Republican source told TPM.

There was no discussion about leadership positions in the call and both McConnell and Sasse appreciated the brief talk, according to two Republican sources.

In a more subtle ratcheting down of his rhetoric, Sasse cited the late-Rep. Jack Kemp (R-NY) as a role model in his victory speech on Tuesday night. Kemp is actually a favorite figure of House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI), who is widely considered a member of the establishment Republican in the tea party versus GOP establishment feuding.

Those less-than-aggressive gestures by Sasse are in spite of the fact that Sasse’s campaign was boosted by outside groups like the Senate Conservatives Fund which have repeatedly and aggressively attacked McConnell.

Sasse was also the target of establishment Republicans through an anti-Sasse super PAC formed by Republican operatives with ties to McConnell. That super PAC was co-founded with the help of Rep. Tom Cotton’s (R-AR) campaign manager. Cotton is more associated with establishment Republicans.