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Politics Sasse's Iowa Visit Raises His Profile -- and Questions

23:51  15 july  2017
23:51  15 july  2017 Source:   realclearpolitics.com

Sen. Ben Sasse loses bet, will drive Uber

  Sen. Ben Sasse loses bet, will drive Uber Sen. Ben Sasse loses bet, will drive UberRemember when Nebraska Sen.

22, 2017, in his Lincoln, Neb., office. (Nati Harnik/AP). NEVADA, Iowa -- Ben Sasse wanted to be Ignore Sasse ' s graceful dodge of a question from CNN's Jake Tapper about challenging Trump in Aside from all of those things, Sasse ' s trip looks rather innocuous. To read into this visit any future

sasses _ iowa _ visit _ raises _ his _ profile _--_ and _ questions _134480.amp.html.

  Sasse's Iowa Visit Raises His Profile -- and Questions © Provided by Real Clear Politics

During an eyebrow-raising visit to Iowa last week that stoked chatter about his potential presidential aspirations, Sen. Ben Sasse did something unusual and revealing: He did not mention President Trump.

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Speaking at a Story County Republican Party event in Nevada, Iowa, with the national media spotlight trained squarely upon him, Sasse might have used that platform to buck the president, as he has done many times previously. The Nebraska senator gained notoriety last year as one of a few Republicans to withhold his support for the party's nominee, instead urging a third party alternative to Trump and Hillary Clinton. As most of the GOP coalesced around its candidate, if grudgingly, Sasse refused to budge - and made a lot of noise about it.

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sasses _ iowa _ visit _ raises _ his _ profile _--_ and _ questions _134480.amp.html.

Sasse , a conservative Nebraska Republican with a decidedly academic bent to his political approach, was the featured speaker at a Two visits to first-in-the-nation Iowa could raise questions about Sasse ' s presidential ambitions, and, indeed, he has been tagged as a potential candidate in 2020.

His stubborn stance earned him national attention and some accolades, including a place last year on the Politico 50 list of political movers and shakers. The site wrote of the freshman lawmaker, "The more Donald Trump drops in the polls, the more Ben Sasse's stock rises."

Now that Trump is president, however, where does that leave the young upstart?

Sasse, 45, has continued to grow his national profile, publishing a book this year and embarking on a tour to promote it. He has also remained a vocal critic of the president, using occasional tweets and TV appearances to tweak the administration.

But Sasse has also noticeably toned down his rhetoric from the heat of the campaign last year - reflecting the changed political landscape as well as pressures from constituents and donors, some of whom have "talked to him and told him to knock it off," as one senior Republican who supports Sasse put it.

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During an eyebrow- raising visit to Iowa last week that stoked chatter about his potential presidential aspirations, Sen. Sasse , 45, has continued to grow his national profile , publishing a book this year and embarking on a tour to promote it.

This feedback might be why, in Iowa, Sasse steered clear of any anti-Trump spiel, sticking instead to a TED Talk-esque stump speech -- incorporating themes like social connectivity -- that has become his trademark. (Sasse, through a spokesperson, declined an interview request from RealClearPolitics.) But his dip into the Hawkeye State nevertheless showcased some frayed emotions among Republicans who are still suspicious of his motives and ambitions.

One of them was Jeff Kaufmann, chairman of the Iowa Republican Party, who used his opening remarks at a recent Trump event in the state to target Sasse directly - saying he "crosses the Missouri River, and in that sanctimonious tone talks about what he doesn't like about Donald Trump."

"You know what, Sen. Sasse? I really don't care what you like. We love Donald Trump," Kaufmann added. "And if you don't love him, I suggest you stay on your side of the Missouri River."

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Sasse , and his wife, Melissa (née McLeod) Sasse , live in Fremont, Nebraska, with their three children. Sasse was raised a Lutheran and baptized in the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod.[48] He later became an elder in the United Reformed Churches in North America, and served Iowa . Kansas.

The reality is, Sasse is also facing backlash on his own bank of the Missouri, where some Republicans have become disenchanted with their senator's attention-grabbing turn on the national stage.

"I and a lot of my conservative friends have already decided that we will not be voting for Sasse the next time that he is up for election," one Nebraskan, Del Ostergaard, wrote in a recent letter to the Omaha World-Herald, citing Sasse's Iowa jaunt. "I hope that he will have a primary opponent. If not, I believe that we will have only one Republican senator from our state. Really sad."

Sasse, who is not up for re-election until 2020, is far from the first politician to seek the delicate balance between building a national brand and maintaining a strong base of support back home. Former Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel tested the waters for a presidential bid ahead of the 2008 election, even weighing running as an Independent; he ultimately decided against it, but dented his reputation back home in the process.

Sasse is "kind of pulling a Chuck Hagel thing, where he criticized [President George W.] Bush and went on the Sunday talk shows," said one Nebraska Republican strategist.

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Sasse on Gorsuch, Trump and public trust 06:38. Story highlights. The criticism from Kaufman came at a rally for Trump in Cedar Rapids, Iowa . Sasse ' s office declined to comment. The rally was Trump's first visit to the state since his White House victory.

Ben Sasse , who has gained national prominence as a critic of Donald Trump, isn’t welcome in Iowa —two weeks before the Nebraska Republican is scheduled to keynote a local party dinner in his first visit here since Trump was elected president.

Yet Sasse remains popular overall, in some polling even more so than his colleague Deb Fischer, a fellow Republican and the senior senator from Nebraska. A Morning Consult poll this month showed Sasse with a net approval of 24 percent, while Fischer netted 16 percent approval. Sasse's rating has increasing from the same poll in September, in the heat of the campaign season, when he netted 13 percent approval, while Fischer netted 27 percent.

In a letter to the Omaha World-Herald, reader Kalani Simpson marveled that while Fischer "takes heat for her political stances ... Sasse basks in oohs and aahs from national media elites for being photographed in gym shorts on Capitol grounds or for firing off a ‘witty' Nickelback tweet."

Many Nebraska GOP activists are not swooning over the Harvard- and Yale-educated lawmaker, however - with Republicans there describing a stark disconnect between his steady public support and his standing among the state Republican Party.

"It's a weird dynamic, to be frank," said Jeremy Aspen, a member of the state party central committee who did not back Trump and continues to support Sasse. "Some people in the Nebraska GOP do have some animosity against Ben Sasse, for no real good reason, near as I can tell."

The most frequent arguments Aspen and other state Republicans have heard against him are more personal than rooted in policy: Sasse is "self-centered" or "in it for himself politically," some Nebraska Republicans complain. More than a few party activists raised eyebrows when Sasse decided this year to give up his seat on the Senate agriculture committee, on which Nebraska lawmakers have served consecutively for decades; instead, he opted for slots on the more high-profile judiciary and armed services committees.

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And many Republicans remain bothered by Sasse's vocal opposition to Trump, believing he has done damage to the GOP "team." Party activists implicitly scolded Sasse last year at the state party convention, with a resolution countering his call for a third party alternative candidate.

But if Sasse is "not supporting one of our teammates perfectly," Aspen added, meaning Trump, "his voting record is pretty close to perfect, I think most Nebraskans would say."

Sasse is often quick to mention his voting record - the "third-most conservative" in the Senate, he likes to say. That ideological bent has earned him powerful allies within the party, including the Koch brothers' political network, at whose Colorado confab Sasse recently spoke.

"He's becoming a thought leader, no question about that," said Tim Phillips, president of Americans for Prosperity, one of the groups under the Koch umbrella. "He has a grasp of history, and I think that helps him as he lays out a vision for the future of the party and the movement."

For AFP and other groups, the rivalry between Sasse and Trump is of less importance. "We focus on the issues," Phillips added, "and we just don't get involved in personal spats and social media exchanges."

The same cannot be said for Trump. In January 2016, as the Republican primary was getting underway, he tweeted: Sasse "looks more like a gym rat than a U.S. Senator. How the hell did he ever get elected?"

Meanwhile, Sasse was even more aggressive on social media speaking out against the celebrity businessman, and has remained so during Trump's presidency, often taking to Twitter to register his displeasure with something the commander-in-chief has said or tweeted.

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"Please just stop," Sasse implored via Twitter last month after Trump publicly insulted MSNBC anchor Mika Brzezinski. "This isn't normal and it's beneath the dignity of your office."

But Sasse has also suggested that he is attempting to limit his confrontation with the president. When asked about Trump during a May interview with Time magazine to promote his book, he pointed out, "I'm pretty certain the president is never mentioned at any point in this book."

What was the trip to Iowa about, then, if not challenging him?

"I think this is all about him getting a name for himself," Kaufmann told Politico following his fiery attack on Sasse in Iowa. Sasse has been critical of the president, Kaufmann believed, "because Ben Sasse is running for president in 2024."

Still, Kaufmann doubted that the Nebraska senator could be "crazy" enough to challenge Trump directly in a 2020 Republican primary. "Nobody will be that crazy," he said.

Sasse is not the sole Republican lawmaker to have visited Iowa this year, although his stop seemed to draw the most attention. Sens. Tom Cotton and Tim Scott have also headlined party events in the state, although most people have assumed they are testing the waters for a presidential contest later on, perhaps in 2024.

But Brett Barker, the Story County GOP chairman who hosted Sasse, isn't ruling out the possibility of a primary challenge to the president. "Recent history would say it's a remote possibility," Barker said, "but if the last couple of years have taught us anything, it's to expect the unexpected."

Sasse, if anything, has been unconventional: driving for Uber, tweeting more like a millennial than a middle-age senator, making jokes at the expense of the band Nickelback. He has groaned that the country's "political parties aren't very interesting."

Back in Nebraska, that might explain some of the backlash Sasse faces.

"Here in Nebraska we do kind of like boring politicians, and Ben Sasse is not boring at all," said Aspen. "In an odd way, it's a bit of a liability."

"Maybe the attention has some of the Nebraska Republican Party on guard," Aspen added, "because they just don't like the idea that he might be good enough to someday run for president."

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