Sasse outraises Osborn in final quarter before primary

By Deena Winter | Nebraska Watchdog

LINCOLN, Neb. – Ben Sasse says he raised over $850,000 for his U.S. Senate campaign in the first three months of 2014, dwarfing the $550,000 Shane Osborn has said he raised.

FINAL WEEKS: Ben Sasse (left) says he raised over $850,000 in the final quarter before the May 13 primary election, compared to $550,000 raised by Shane Osborn (right).

That brings Sasse’s total haul to date to $2.25 million, with over $1 million in cash on hand, according the campaign. Osborn’s campaign reported raising over $550,000, marking his best quarter to date. Official reports will be filed with the Federal Election Commission on April 15.

On Monday, the Osborn campaign released its fundraising figures before the deadline for the quarter had passed at midnight, leading some of Sasse’s people to accuse them on social media of being desperate to change the headlines after Tea Party group FreedomWorks flipped its endorsement Friday from Osborn to Sasse.

Senior Sasse adviser Jordan Gerhke mocked the Osborn campaign on Twitter, saying he enjoyed watching them “try to change the subject” from the FreedomWorks turnaround by releasing numbers early.

“They’re in real trouble,” he wrote. “They needed to get SOMETHING positive out as quick as possible. They’re in free fall.”

The Osborn campaign said its haul included nearly 3,800 individual donations – 1,400 from Nebraskans — and was “further confirmation of the growing grassroots energy the Osborn campaign is seeing throughout Nebraska.” In a press release, Osborn said voters are identifying with his message of “fighting Washington, D.C.” – even though he is increasingly viewed as the GOP establishment candidate.

“I have a proven record of conservatism, versus Ben Sasse, who has championed big government policies while working as a bureaucrat in the nation’s capital,” Osborn said in the release. “The contrast could not be clearer.”

Osborn has been the presumed frontrunner in the GOP primary race, but his lead is believed to have eroded given his attacks on Sasse (see above) and a rough past few weeks. In late March, when the Omaha World-Herald published a story challenging Osborn’s portrayal of himself as a Navy hero after his surveillance plane was nearly knocked out of the sky by a Chinese fighter in 2001.

Osborn saved the lives of the 23 crew members on board by landing the plane on a Chinese military base, where they were held captive for two weeks before being released to international headlines. He recently apologized for defending his decision to land the plane rather than ditch it to preserve intelligence by circulating an official-looking Navy memo supporting his actions even though it hadn’t been vetted by the Navy but was written by a Pentagon friend.

Meanwhile, Sasse has enjoyed a surge donations and high-profile endorsements, including Congressman Jeff Fortenberry, Utah Sen. Mike Lee and brassy Republican Sarah Palin.

Sasse’s campaign manager, Tyler Grassmeyer, says Sasse has the momentum, with thousands of Nebraskans having turned out for the Obamacare town hall meetings Sasse has held across the state.

“Ben’s message of repealing Obamacare and recovering the Constitution is resonating with Nebraskans and that’s where our support comes from,” Grassmeyer said in a press release.

Sasse and Osborn are in the final weeks of a primary race with Omaha banker Sid Dinsdale and Omaha attorney Bart McLeay – who have not released their fundraising numbers. The winner of the May 13 primary takes on Democrat Dave Domina in November.

Contact Deena Winter at deena@nebraskawatchdog.org. Follow Deena on Twitter at @DeenaNEWatchdog

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Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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