The Nebraska Republican Party has a Constitution. All of the members vote on it, and it is pretty regular stuff.
Here is section 14 of the document — printed in the programs at the Nebraska GOP Convention in Omaha on Saturday:
No member of the State Central Committee or Executive Committee shall endorse a NON-Republican candidate in any election.
That is unambiguous.
And the resolution that was proposed by Nebraska political consultant Sam Fischer, then rewritten, “reviewed and recommended for approval” by the eight-person Resolution Committee, read:
Be it resolved that the Nebraska Republican Party strongly opposes any effort by Republican elected office holders or party officials to encourage a third party candidacy for President of the United States because this would result in the election of Democrat Hillary Clinton and the appointment of liberal justices to the United States Supreme Court.
And it was pretty clear that the 99% of Nebraska delegates agreed, that this resolution was reasonable as well.
Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse and his people were not happy about this.
And they were not going to go down without a fight.
The Anticipated Speeches
So on Saturday in the upper convention rooms at the Century Link Center in Omaha, about 400+ Nebraska delegates gathered to discuss this resolution. And hear some speeches. And decide who gets that trip to Cleveland (paid for by the delegates themselves…).
Nebraska’s Senior Senator, Deb Fischer, set the tone for the day during her speech:
“We cannot elect a President Hillary Clinton.”
“It is not the elites in DC, not the pollsters or opinion page writers who decide. It is the people who decide.”
“I am committed to supporting the Republican ticket from the top to the bottom.”
She was unambiguous in her intentions.
She never said Ben Sasse’s name, but after she was done, the buzz was, “What will Sasse say!?”
Sasse was next.
Ben Sasse took the stage to a standing ovation.
Same as Deb Fischer, and later Pete Ricketts and Jeff Fortenberry and Adrian Smith and Don Bacon and even Attorney General Doug Peterson.
And Sasse began..
“I acknowledge difference on political issues and tactical questions…”
But that was it. And he then launched into the exact same speech that he gave at the Douglas County Republican Convention. And others around the state.
But after Sasse’s Facebook Manifesto, delegates expected a discussion. Or a debate. Or at least an expansion about why Sasse feels their votes and their efforts and their debates in the Republican Presidential Primary — from which there is a presumed nominee — doesn’t get any further discussion.
These delegates are the people who go door to door, who make the phone calls, who hand out the literature and pass out stickers. They deserved a discussion from the most outspoken person on the #NeverTrump and Third Party issue. Instead they got a very nice story about Sasse’s daughter, but it was not what anyone was waiting to hear from him.
And when confronted by reporters, Sasse refused to do an on-camera interview.
And he refused to answer any questions from reporters about the #NeverTrump or Third Party issues, claiming it was too “little”. That “the people” wanted to hear about “big issues”.
He took to the back of the loud convention room with a few reporters clustered around him. After protesting that he needed to leave to get to another engagement, the OWH’s Robynn Tysver responded:
“Thats one of the gripes I’m hearing from Nebraskans, it’s like you’re running away all the time, I hear that quite a bit.”
Sasse responded tersely, that he “talks to Nebraskans EVERY day.”
And then,…he cut out as fast as he could.
KETV reporter Camilla Orti literally chased him down, and the best we got was something about wanting to talk about “big” things, and not these “little” things.
You know, the “little” things that he wrote a Manifesto about on Facebook.
And then he rode the escalator out of site.
Pete goes rogue
After some voting and such, Governor Pete Ricketts got up.
He started out by giving a full-throated support of Donald Trump:
I know about contested primaries. But we have the person who is going to be the nominee and that person is Donald Trump.
There have been some suggestions that Ricketts is still hedging his bets on Trump. His staff had told people that Ricketts did NOT endorse Trump, instead saying only that he is “supporting” the eventual GOP nominee.
Unclear what the difference is, unless that’s how they keep things civil in the owners’ box at Wrigley. But if Ricketts is keeping some sort of #NeverTrump card up his sleeve, it was not apparent at the Nebraska GOP Convention. Everything he said indicated he is behind Trump.
And people were into it.
But then things got weird.
Recently with the legislative primaries, Ricketts was essentially credited with the defeat of State Senator Les Seiler, as he campaigned for Seiler’s opponent. Seiler had opposed Ricketts on a number of bills, and this was seen as payback.
And then Ricketts, apparently feeling his oats, decided to lash out at other GOP Senators who have opposed him.
And we mean EVERY Senator. Called out.
Including some sitting in the audience.
In bill after bill.
He asked, “Folks what’s the deal?”
And then hammered Senator Bob Hilkemann who was sitting in the audience.
This was an interesting tactic by Ricketts. But to what end?
The time for shaming Senators would generally be…before they vote. Or maybe before the election. Because that way there is at least some result.
But here, all Ricketts did was make some people very, very angry at an event that was supposed to be all about Republican unity.
In a political sense, what was the gain? One could even argue that now Ricketts owes THEM a favor, after all of this.
Sure there were some who thought it was great that the Governor showed these Senators up. But what the use is of that in the long run, is not clear.
And then came the votes…
Let’s hit the resolutions, which garnered a great deal of interest, before heading back to the delegate votes.
The “Third Party” resolution had very little debate. For a period of 10 minutes, delegates were allowed to approach a microphone, and taking turns for either side, make their case for or against.
There were no party stalwarts lined up on what was essentially Ben Sasse’s side. There was not an organized opposition to the resolution. What some believed would be a spirited issue, turned into a landslide.
Robynn Tysver Tweeted that the thought the voice vote was 400-8.
I thought eight was a bit generous — more like 5 — but I won’t quibble.
All the things Republicans hate
But the Sasse side was not going to go down without trying to hammer Donald Trump on the way down the escalator.
Their competing resolution looked like this:
Be it resolved that the Nebraska Republican Party strongly opposes all degrading remarks towards women, minorities and other individuals by Republican elected office holders or party officials, including candidates for President of the United States, because such rhetoric tarnishes the GOP’s legacy as the party of Lincoln, alienates millions of Americans, and jeopardizes Republican majorities in the Nebraska Legislature, the United States House of Representatives and United States Senate.
My first reaction? This will sail through. Who DOESN’T support this?
And why stop there? How about being against child abuse? Arson? Bad thoughts?
But other delegates saw it for what it was: a political IED. Improvised Explosive Device.
Sure everyone was for the concept. But then all Democrats (or Third Partiers) will say, “Ah ha! See even Nebraska Republicans hate what Trump is doing!”
And then if they don’t pass it, “Ah ha! Look at those evil Republicans! They are FOR degrading comments towards women! See! Seeeee!!!”
And so the Nebraska Republican delegates took the third option.
They tabled it.
That was the vote: We choose NOT to vote on this issue. One delegate called the resolution, “like it was written by Nebraska Democrat Chairman Vince Powers himself.”
Of course those same Democrats and Third Partiers, after seeing Sasse hammered at the convention, took to the Twitters and decried the GOP’s move, anyway.
A final note about the delegate selection.
The likely result of the delegates at the convention is that they will vote on the platform and say “Aye!” at the convention. But the idea that they will be heavily involved, as they would have been at an open convention, is very likely done.
That isn’t to say there wasn’t still jockeying for the spots. There was a rumor that Ted Cruz forces were still trying to hammer in their people. That largely failed.
There was an early agreement between the Ricketts and Trump people on delegates, with Senator Fischer’s name added. The Ricketts people changed a number of those names at the last minute, and there were absolutely some who were angry about that.
But 400 delegates still had to vote, and while there were some who were unhappy, you didn’t hear a steady din from those who thought it was a travesty. Stalwart Republican Hal Daub is a delegate. Former Chair Mark Fahleson, a Sasse lieutenant and #NeverTrump-er, is a delegate. Sam Fischer, original author of the “anti-Third Party” resolution is a delegate. Former Governor Dave Heineman’s wife, Sally Ganem is a delegate.
Who says the Nebraska GOP isn’t a big tent?
And just a final note that Senator Deb Fischer was there to the very, very end voting on delegates and alternate delegates. And Governor Pete Ricketts was there giving final instructions to the elected delegates. For some, it was a long day.
Here is a list of delegates elected to the National GOP Convention in Cleveland:
1st Congressional District
2nd Congressional District
3rd Congressional District
Mary Jane Truemper
At this time I do not have a list of elected Alternate delegates.
I am scheduled to be on KFAB’s Chris Baker show today around 2:10pm to talk about this past Saturday’s festivities. 1110 on your AM dial, or listen online at KFAB.com or on the iHeartRadio app.
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