NE Senate fight: Will Osborn-Sasse fight fuel dark horse finish?


Joe Jordan | Nebraska Watchdog

It’s finally time—time to wonder if this year’s GOP Senate race is 1998 or 2012 all over again.

GOP Senate hopefuls: Osborn, Sasse, Dinsdale and McLeay (left to right)

It took a while but in the last few days the folks backing Shane Osborn and Ben Sasse have brought out the knives (just how long they are in a minute), accusing each other of all but lying.

GOP Senate hopeful Sid Dinsdale is also the President of Pinnacle Bank

According to some Republican insiders, that’s just what banker Sid Dinsdale and attorney Bart McLeay have been waiting for: front runners Osborn and Sasse turning on each other, disappointing the voters with negative ads and paving the way for a dark horse win on May 13.

And why not it’s happened before, sort of.

  • The ’98 governor’s primary had been a two man tussle between Jon Christensen and John Breslow. But late in the game with Johanns surging Breslow went south—a TV ad accusing both Johanns and Christensen of raising taxes. Christensen followed with a flyer accusing Johanns of (you can’t make this stuff up) wanting children to be exposed to obscene TV programs. When the Breslow-Christensen attacks backfired, especially Christensen’s, Johanns had the nomination.
  • Two years ago it was Deb Fischer’s turn. When outsiders—some backing Don Stenberg some just anti-Jon Bruning—turned up the heat on front runner Bruning (he was accused of making millions while serving as Attorney General) the under-funded state senator from Valentine emerged and is now “Senator Fischer.”

But here’s where the mirror gets a bit cloudy.

  • The ’98 and ’12 fights were truly nasty. This Osborn-Sasse feud—each accusing the other of Washington insiderism—is tame by comparison. Nebraska voters revolted in ’98 when smut-pedding was on the table. Will charges of ‘Washington insiderism’ have the same effect?
  • Unlike those Johanns-Fischer scenarios this year’s Senate race is a four-man fight. So if voters flee Osborn and Sasse do they head for Dinsdale or McLeay? Many insiders favor Dinsdale but McLeay would arguably pick-up some of the fall-out making Dinsdale’s climb to the top a whole lot tougher.

Finally, and this may be the most important point, both Johanns and Fischer had quietly put themselves in positions to win. So when the front runners imploded Johanns and Fischer were ready.

Are Dinsdale and/or McLeay ready?

The winner of the May 13 primary faces Democrat Dave Domina in November.

Contact Joe Jordan at

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