In conservative circles, this is the equivalent of Dr. Hook making the cover of the Rolling Stone.
(See the whole story, free, at National Review Online here.)
Sasse has been taking the national media by storm — well a midwest storm that Al Roker gives a few minutes to, anyway. So far almost all of U.S Senate candidate Ben Sasse’s campaign videos have received a link on The Drudge Report. (Consider that oftentimes when a site receives a link from Drudge, it will collapse from the influx of hits.) The attention can make an insignificant story turn into a media odyssey. (And more on that in a bit.)
But Ben Sasse has also made inroads into the office of the National Review, the premier conservative thought magazine in the country (founded by conservative titan William F. Buckley, Jr..) We have asked around a bit, and we do know that Sasse has a number of personal friends from his Washington, D.C. days that would enable him to have no problem at least getting his foot into the door at National Review. But much like a job interview, your foot in the door is only the first step. You have to sell it from there.
And all those we have spoken to tell that Sasse can sell it from there.
Former NR writer David Freddoso gave an extensive review of Sasse and WHY he made the cover. He notes that NR put both Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz on the cover of their mag when each was way behind in the polls — 20 to 30% — yet had a deep well of conservative support. Freddoso goes on to say,
Okay, but what exactly does a glowing NR cover do for a candidate like Cruz or Rubio or Sasse?
First, you’re going to have the broader population of conservatives who don’t always read NR but generally trust the editors’ judgment. If you want to know who the conservative in the race is, you can check with groups that a lot of people don’t know much about (Senate Conservatives’ Fund, Club for Growth, FreedomWorks) or you can check National Review, which after so many decades everyone’s heard of.
This will simply put Sasse on the radar for a lot of people who might instead be thinking about other issues or races with higher profiles — such as the many challenges to Democratic senators this year, many of which feature Republican primaries as well. As any author will tell you, publicity matters all on its own, a lot more than you’d think.
To some degree — and I’d be careful about overestimating this — the NR cover will help raise Sasse’s profile within Nebraska. People don’t vote for people they’ve never heard of, and our early poll of the race showed Sasse with very little name recognition. But primary electorates are famously volatile — just ask Cruz, Rubio, or Rand Paul, who were all underdogs. The more important boost to name recognition will come if and when Sasse’s campaign spends some of its cash to make sure every GOP primary voter in the state is aware of it.
So what DOES the NR story have to say?
Well, most of the stuff you’ve heard before. Resume. Career outline. ObamaCare “expert”.
They do touch on the point that Sasse may not have been the all-out “repeal ObamaCare” prosthelytizer that he is now.
(More on that later.)
And for what it’s worth, we finally get a tease on Sasse’s plan for an ObamaCare alternative:
Sasse recommends a three-point approach: End the tax bias that has turned health insurance into a perk of employment, allow consumers to buy policies across state lines, and give states more responsibility for their social safety nets.
We’ve heard the second a million times, not sure what the third point means. But it’s the first one that we have a feeling may be the item that is controversial. Of course, we have no detail, so we’ll have to wait and watch — but it sounds potentially explosive.
One chuckleworthy part of the story focuses on Sasse’s…name:
Sasse faces an additional obstacle: a surname perhaps best described as unfortunate. It rhymes with “pass” but looks like “sassy,” and a bad-luck photo-cropping job could put him in front of a campaign sign that simply says “ass.” In any other state, his perfectly good first name would be an excellent bumper-sticker option, but in Nebraska it recalls that other Ben, the retired Democratic senator Ben Nelson — he of the “Cornhusker kickback” and the 60th vote for Obamacare. At a television studio in Lincoln on December 19, Sasse tries anyway: “My last name is Sasse, but feel free to call me Ben,” he says to a producer before going on air. The hosts of the show wind up calling him “Dr. Sasse.”
In any case, we wait to see what this national attention does for Sasse in Nebraska. As Freddoso points out above, the main thing it can do is get Sasse some more cash to spread his name across Nebraska. As far as his opponents go, the NR article give them short shrift in the interest department:
…Sasse squares off against banker Sid Dinsdale, former state treasurer Shane Osborn, and two other Republicans in this year’s first truly contested Senate primary.
Heh. We’re guessing those two others are named “Bart” and “McLeay”.
But no mention that in current polls Osborn has a commanding lead and that Sasse even trails Dinsdale. Of course, there is also a huge “Undecided” group there as well that Sasse needs to tap into.
This sort of interest can’t hurt.
We mentioned the Drudge links above for Sasse, and if you get Google News updates like us, you would have seen the dozens of stories about Sasse’s suggestion to “move the Capitol to Nebraska.”
Most stories noted that Sasse’s suggestion was tongue in cheek. But many others glossed over that and dug deep into constitutional questions on such a move. Others suggested other move sites. Others (we’re looking at you Wonkette) were furiously peeved that little fly-over-state boy had the GALL to suggest that Nebraskans have more common sense than those from the rest of the country.
The most interesting (and now we can’t find the link) was one suggestion that to get rid of lobbyist influence, all of the real business — hearings, votes, everything — should be done virtually so that lobbyists couldn’t congregate in one city and get their mitts on so many at once. They’d have to spread out, becoming less effective (in theory).
In any case, once again, this shows the influence of one little Drudge link (actually the video had 2 links on Drudge — a feat in and of itself). Again, mission accomplished by Camp Sasse to get people talking about their candidate. We wait to see the direction the other candidates go.
But we’re guessing the McLeay family won’t be on Drudge any time soon.
And with all the glowing coverage of Sasse, of course there are plenty of Sasse detractors who have let us know about Sasse’s past statements, particularly on ObamaCare. You’ve heard most:
“Take the idea of the ‘individual mandate,’ which would require all citizens to have health insurance. There’s an emerging consensus that this might be a good idea.”
“Ultimately, Sasse said the healthcare bill “is an important first step” in thinking about healthcare coverage, but does not address problems that drive the growth of uninsured Americans.”
Then there was his position on the actual Congressional votes:
“Republicans are not repealing this bill, Republicans are also not going to be able to defund this bill and Republicans are not really going to be able to void any of the significant regulations in this bill. They lack the votes to do any of those things,” Sasse said.
“From 2010 to 2012 Republicans are disinclined to do anything constructive to solve the problem, and are instead going to have symbolic repeal votes.”
But after he became a candidate…
“Repeal it now rather than (await) the carnage in 2014” when the law is scheduled to fully take effect.”
If the main discussion during the primary is going to be on ObamaCare, you can bet you’d see some “comparison” ads that would point out some of Sasse’s inconsistencies. But of course if someone is focusing on Sasse at that point, half his Name ID battle is complete.
We will all take another look in a month or so.
Oh, and we had one commenter forward this shot to us, of the last Yale Dr. to run for Senate in Nebraska…
We’ll have a separate post soon to talk about the Governor’s race.
Come on back!