3 clear losers in #NESEN debate

NESEN debate 031114

There were three clear losers in last night’s debate between Nebraska U.S. Senate candidates Sid Dinsdale, Bart McLeay, Shane Osborn and Ben Sasse.

Those 3 losers are:
1) Moderator Joe Jordan
2) Moderator Jim Rose
3) The miserable format

(“Awwwwww! We thought Sweeper was going to tell us which candidates stunk!“)

Here is the reality, Republican voters: Each of the four candidates is a smart, quality, conservative individual. It is rare that there is an election where each candidate is smart, experienced, can think on their feet, knows the issues, isn’t strange in some way or is someone who you just don’t like personally.

Nebraska would be lucky to have any one of the four candidates representing them in the Senate.

Annnnnd, they all performed very well in the debate. You can argue one way or another on various points, but any neutral observer would call it a 4-way tie.


How do you get to a point where voters can decide on one of them?
Well sure as heck not from that debate format.

Here is the problem folks: If the next debate does not allow the candidates a) sufficient time to talk and b) confront each other on issues, this campaign will ultimately be decided by outside groups who bombard the airwaves with attack ad after attack ad.

So let us be realistic that we know the candidates can speak knowledgeably about “repealing ObamaCare , growing the economy and cutting taxes.”

What are the differences between the candidates? Well, you can continue to let moderators ask each of the candidates what the differences are. And the candidates will talk about their individual experience and blahdity blahdity blah.

That is not going to do it.

The candidates need to be able to directly engage each other, ask the tough questions that the moderators won’t ask and ANSWER those tough questions.

That is why the current format is a waste of everyone’s time. No one is debating anything when the candidates agree on literally ALL of the questions.

Then there is the time. How much time did the candidates get to answer the questions? A minute? And that was after the moderators took two to three minutes to ASK the questions.

For instance, Ben Sasse was the one candidate who clearly came armed with 2-3 canned one-liners that he knew would get a mention in the papers or the radio the next day “President Obama is the Kim Kardashian of government excess.” OK, we aren’t entirely sure of what that means, but it was quote-worthy, right?

Well, this format is set up so that the very best you can hope for is a clever one-liner. Ask a big long complicated question, asking for three different specific responses for how we can respond to the effects government has had over the last 40 years, and please keep your answer to 60 seconds.

Are you kidding?


Which brings us to our questioners.

Look, Nebraska Watchdog’s Joe Jordan and KFAB’s Jim Rose did a better job than the questioners in the last debate.


Jordan decided he had some real gotcha questions for the candidates, like,
Q: “Would you raise taxes for…WAR???!!!!”
A: “No. No. No. No.”
Follow-up Q: Not even FOR WAR????

Or then he wanted to know what specific number of illegal aliens coming over the border is OK. All candidates said “seal the border.” Jordan followed up with THE SAME QUESTION, arguing that “How do you know whether the border has been sealed sufficiently if you don’t have a number???

Which is an interesting point, Joe, except Shane Osborn nailed it by pointing out, well, one WMD would be too many, right? So while you would like them to be super-duper specific, you give an unreasonable scenario.

And even then, what if one candidate answered, “Well, I think 100 illegals crossing the border a month would be acceptable.” (Which gets back to Osborn’s point of, is that 100 Swedish children or 100 Uzbeki terrorists?) But even then, the next candidate to answer is going to say, “100 per month? I’d say 100 per YEAR!” And then the next says, “You appeaser! I’d say 100 per 10 years is too many!

And then you’ve gotten nowhere.

Part of Jordan’s problem was that he chose questions where he wanted to argue a point — where he KNEW that the candidate would give the opposite answer. Which you can sort-of do in a one-on-one interview, but not in a debate among four candidates.

Not to mention, when GOP voters are looking for differences between the candidates, don’t ask a “Will you raise taxes?” question, when you know how all four will answer. That could possibly work in the general election debates, but not in the primary.

And as long as we are cranking on Jordan — for this thankless job — what was with the “if you can’t win, who would you vote for?” It was telling that the packed house of campaign operatives and press people audibly groaned and booed the question.

Seriously, is there ANYTHING gained by that question and any answers, other than maybe some levity? Did voters learn anything?


And then there was Jim Rose, who decided that the way for the candidates to get super specific was to ask them four-minute long questions, asking for part A, part B and part C answers, pertaining to the period from the founding of Rome to the present with four specific sub-examples for each, excluding the Department of Roads, Energy and the UN Security Counsel, but including the NRA without any references to Huey Lewis.

And then you’d hear the answer is, “I would start by repealing ObamaCare…” along with references to Nebraska values, freedom and lower taxes.

All in 60 seconds.

We appreciate what Rose was getting at, but his question was more suited to a Sophomore mid-term paper than to a super-brief debate answer.


So what is the answer to this equivalent of staring at the little spinning pinwheel on your computer for 70 minutes?

Well, unless the Nebraska GOP makes the conscious decision to let the out-of-state third party ads decide the election, they need to change the format for the last debate.


1) Let the candidates ask each other questions. Maybe, because of time limits, only one or two each.
2) Give them enough time to answer — meaning the debate lasts at least 90 minutes, if not 120.
3) Let them respond to each other, follow-up, argue, mix it up. There can be a strong moderator to control this.
4) Don’t worry about it being televised, because NO ONE is watching it anyway. People will, however, read the summaries in the paper and watch the bites on the TV and listen to discussion on the radio. This is maybe unfortunate, but it is the reality. If someone wants the whole thing they can watch a webcast, which a TV station can offer on their site without anyone missing an episode of The Bachelor.
5) Skip opening statements. Complete waste of time. Allow a close in order to clean up any answers.

We are sure there are more ways to fix this. But some sort of change is needed. Heck, Nebraska could be featured by the national press for having a format that allowed voters to actually make a choice.

Or they can just let the battle between the national GOP factions decide Nebraska’s next U.S. Senator.

You decide which you want.


In the FWIW category, Breitbart.com is reporting a new poll for the Senate race, as follows:

Osborn: 35%
Sasse: 24%
Dinsdale: 9%
McLeay: 2%
Undecided: 30%

The ironic thing about the Breitbart story is that they say that Sasse is “surging” and “gaining ground”, when these numbers are actually a dip for Sasse and an uptick for Osborn from the last poll which had Osborn at 30% and Sasse at 29%.

Note however…

The poll surveyed 600 Nebraskans likely to vote in the Senate election--400 of which identified as Republican – between Feb. 25-28. The poll had a margin error of +/- 4.9 percent for the Republican subgroup.

It is unclear to us why the pollsters would include 1/3 of people who cannot vote in the GOP primary.
There are certainly cross-tabs — from this poll taken 2 weeks 11 days ago — that show what the GOP numbers are. We do not know why those would not be published.

If we had to bet, we would put the actual numbers somewhere between the two, which still leaves Osborn and Sasse, and possibly Dinsdale, fighting it out for that 30% of undecideds.


  1. Not Joe Jordan says:

    You see, if I don’t try so desperately for a gotcha moment, then I don’t validate my salary. C’mon guys, please read my non-stories! I gotta keep the lights on!

  2. To a month old poll says:

    Evidently you don’t know how to use a calendar. The last day in the field was Feb 28. The poll is only a week and a half old.

  3. Bored Voter says:

    The reason Rose took so long is because he loves the sound of his own voice and can’t be bothered with listening to others. What wasn’t there a ring toss tournament that needed a sportscaster?

  4. KB from LNK says:

    I was one of those who sat in front of a monitor for the entire forum (that was not a debate). I’m an already decided, Republican voter. Last night did not change who I will vote for, but it did give me more of an appreciation for each of these candidates. Whoever is the GOP nominee will have my full support in the, general election. What a great state we live in to have so many talented, passionate, well-informed candidates. Thank you NEGOP and KETV for providing this hour of information. Thank you to each candidate for making the sacrifice to run.

  5. Ricky says:

    Funny when you realize that in the real world, that is outside of red-state Nebraska, Mr Obama is much more popular than any Republican, and if one of these debaters last night gets to DC Mr Obama is ten times as popular and powerful than they.
    And somebody should ask them exactly how they will get rid of Obamacare if elected. They can’t is the answer.
    In fact, despite the GOP droning on and on and on about Obamacare, most people do NOT want a total recall of the law. It’s not a big priority for most people. Jobs and the economy are much more important.
    What a waste of time last night.

    ricky from omaha

  6. Tonic & Tonic says:

    Ricky, you and I agree on something. I don’t want a complete repeal of Obama’s health insurance law.

    I think denying someone coverage due to a pre-existing condition is wrong, but instead of banning it, we ought to offer a tax incentive for taking people with pre-existing conditions.

    I also like the fact that young people up to 26 may stay on their parents’ health insurance policy. That way, med school and grad students can focus more on studies and less on worrying about contracting the clap.

    Other than those two facets, this law is junk and needs to be repealed.


  7. A real Poll... says:

    What would it take for us to get a real poll, from a non-bias pollster? Ultimately the only numbers in question are Sasse’s. In four polls, three of the four candidates numbers are consistent (Osborn at 34-35%, Dinsdale at 9%, and McLeay at 2%), but Sasse’s numbers have fluctuated from 5% to 30% depending with 29% and 24% in the last two polls, respectively. For me, this makes McLeay and Dinsdale irrelevant. This also can’t be good for Osborn who has 90% name ID currently, but hasn’t moved since he was the only guy in the race. Last 60 days are going to be really interesting especially with no serious debate (based on the last two, why would there be). Understanding how close the numbers are, the ad campaigns from the superpacs are going to get ugly.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Republicans have no ability to think about ways to fix Obamacare and build a more sane healthcare system for America’s citizens. They only know how to throw temper tantrums and threaten to break the whole thing. They’re still playing in the sandbox, so it doesn’t matter who “won” this silly debate. If any of them go to Washington, it will be the citizens of Nebraska that turn out to be the losers.

  9. Drew to Streetsweeper says:

    You are spot on about the debate questions and the poll. All the candidates say they are for repealing Obamacare but what comes next? Does anyone realize the unfunded liabilities of the Medicare/Medicaid program is five times the unfunded liabilities of Social Security? Does anyone realize merely repealing Obamacare will expand Medicare because Obamacare actually cuts Medicare? No one asked this question as to what happens with such entitlements after Obamacare.

    As for the poll, it is weird because the undecideds went up while Osborn ratings went up at the same time compared to the previous poll. That probably has to do with putting 1/3 of nonRepublicans in the poll, but causes me to wonder at what point in the poll was the person asked whom they supported.
    Since this board is in Omaha where Osborn has the vast majority of his support, I am not going to make further comment.

  10. Drew,
    I have no idea what you’re getting at, but “this board” is not “in Omaha”. It’s on this new thing Al Gore calls the “Information Superhighway.” It’s read from Scottsbluff to Schuyler. From Wahoo to Washington, DC. From Liverpool to Lahore. From Perth to Panama City. From Brownsville to Bellevue.
    So speak your mind, cowboy. Comment away. Let the Leavenworth St. comment section be your Speakers’ Corner.
    Or whatever.

  11. Drew to Streetsweeper says:

    Say what you will but my experience on posting here on the Senate campaign suggests many in Omaha post on this topic. But let me release some of my venom. I am sick and tired of conservatives supporting candidates who end up being elected RINOs or who go so far off the beaten path, you wish the elected official would get a heart attack and die. Let me give you some examples. Chuck Hagel was grand and great on economic issues but he went south on any idea of dealing with Iraq. Remember the promises pro-lifers were made about Ben Nelson, the guy who ended up giving us Obamacare? This is why a good number of Nebraskans started giving to Senate Conservatives Fund, Club for Growth, Madison Project and seeking help from Gunowners of America. Heck, if the local party officials and conservative groups can’t do an adequate job of vetting a candidate, what is a donor to do?

    The resumes in the Senate race matter no matter how far or close the candidates run off their resumes. Osborn attracts those who want more veteran benefits and more military spending and who want to break the sequester. Osborn has spoken for many years to tea party groups. But I have people scream at me that he is a veteran. Well, so is Bob Kerrey and to be a bit fair he lost a leg for our country, but that was still not a reason to elect him US Senator again.

    Sid Dinsdale runs off his banking experience, but he still does not understand the strategy Ted Cruz took in defunding Obamacare or the fact that repealing Obamacare is not enough.

    We have a lot of conservative political activists telling Nebraskans to support Sasse. Why Sasse? He understands capitalism’s great ability to create prosperity and how government gets in the way. He is that kid on the block who was always fixing stuff. The kid who knew how to solve the Rubik’s cube. You may have your doubts, but Sasse is worth taking the risk. Vote for him. Support him. But for the grace of God, at least hear him out.

  12. To Drew says:

    Watch channel 7 news in a few minutes and watch the Sasse family empire start to fall apart. The people of Fremont were targeted by them!

  13. NebraskANN says:

    I hope Drew isn’t a farmer because Club for Growth and Senate Conservatives Fund both endorsed Sasse and they both oppose any federal subsidies or help to farmers. (You thought they were just going after welfare queens and illegal immigrants. The joke’s on you!) They’re going after crop insurance and subsidies and every other dollar that’s being sent to farmers. Go to their websites and look for yourself. Go to the KETV video archive and watch Sasse dance around the question of farm subsidies. Sometimes what a candidate wont’ talk about tells you more about him than what he does talk about.

  14. Macdaddy says:

    #14, Republicans can’t break Obamacare any worse than it’s already broken. BTW, almost 9000 Americans have died so far because of the awesomeness of Obamacare. How are all those illegal fixes Obama tosses around working out? The barter system would probably be better at this point.

  15. Drew to NebrasANN says:

    Guess what, I am closer to farming than those receiving farm subsidies. Here is what you are not being told the vast majority of those subsidies go to people who never spend a day out of the year even touching dirt. Take Ted Turner for example who owns thousands of acres of land, not just in Nebraska but in other states or Herald Anderson, former publisher of the Omaha World Herald. Such men get tens of thousands of subsidies to do nothing more but be paid to farm. It is patently absurd.

  16. NebraskANN says:

    Drew, I know that. And I’m sure you know that when Gov. Dave gives out “property tax relief” the majority of it goes to Ted Turner and the railroads because they own the most land. (I get about $110 which, as far as I’m concerned, the state should keep and use to provide services to the developmentally disabled, etc. (BTW, Sid Dinsdale’s family has received a ton of money in farm subsidies, and I’m pretty sure one of his sons is currently collecting. You can Google it.)

    I just think people should understand the agendas of the groups who pour so much money into campaigns. These candidates will probably get most of their votes out of rural areas even though the groups that are financing those campaigns would screw those farmers and ranchers in a New York minute if given the chance.

  17. Is that you Drew Sullivan? says:

    Done, because of my last post? Think of all those federal tax dollars Midland takes in. Having a crisis on conscious Drew?

  18. To NebraskaANN says:

    NebraskaANN, a.k.a. TexasAnnie, it must be very difficult to post without using the term y’all. Who do you think you are kidding? We didn’t fall off the turnip truck yesterday.

  19. To Gerard Harbison and Macdaddy says:

    The fact is that Obamacare is the law of the land and even if the GOP takes over the Senate there is absolutely no chance that they will have the necessary numbers to abolish it. Given that, the GOP, if there were any brains in the bunch, should be looking at legislation to improve it. The best way to do that would be the old fashioned way, finding a compromise with the Democrats. That is an impossibility because the babies would rather sit in the corner and hold their breath until they turn blue.
    The good thing is that the American voters are beginning to realize that is the case. If America is ever to function again the first thing that needs to be done is boot out all of those so called representatives in Washington that refuse to seek the middle ground.

  20. Ricky says:

    Very good point number 31. The GOP would rather score political points than improve a law they can not recall, and why would they want to take insurance away from millions that did not have it before?
    Find another cause please. If only because this is getting so so so so so boring.
    But my question is, since there is no way in hell I would ever watch a debate like this, was Jim Rose able to drop Tom Osborne or Rush Limbaugh’s name into the debate>


  21. Drew to 31 and 32 says:

    I have news for you, slavery was once law of the land too. You have no idea how disruptive to the economy Obamacare is or the fact there are no cost containment measures in the program. Go look at the US Debt clock.

  22. TexasAnnie says:

    Nope! #30. NebraskANN and I are not one and the same.
    But I like her style. She’s absolutely right about the mucked-up mess the tax policy has become in Nebraska. That, and the winter weather, is the primary reason our family retuned to Texas upon retirement.

    Hi! Drew.

  23. true conservative says:

    I am interested in who Bill Kintner endorses. He has become the voice of conservatives in this state. He is the only Senator to have the courage to introduce an amendment to repeal the smoking age. I am guessing he would say “My legislation is a sign to the rest of the nation that we believe in freedom here by giving teenagers back their right to smoke.”

  24. Back To Nebraska Politics says:

    Lots of choices for Governor, but I believe the best choice is Bryan Slone, and I will vote for him in the primary.

  25. Anonymous says:

    I’ll probably vote for Slone as well. He’s the best choice, given that his integrity isn’t constantly in question (bruning) and he isn’t a fraud (ricketts). Just because Bruning is a supposed changed man, it doesn’t change the fact that nobody can trust the guy. What about the Botox, John?

  26. Lil Mac says:

    Well noted, SS. The need for debate in the Senate hasn’t changed. Yet journalists have. Since the 60’s, journalism students have been taught to inject self into news, to editorialize and to entertain while stating objective fact; an impossible juxtaposition. Steeped in illogic and seduced by ego, journalists are addicted to hearing their opinions pass for news. That hampers the First Estate’s usefulness in moderating debate, which become for the media a form of intellectual masturbation.

    Average Americans share a similar distancing from reality. Everyone thinks they are better informed and sure of what is solid and real and unchangeable. And we are mostly wrong.

    We debate Obamacare as if law is sacrosanct, forgetting law is just law. Any law can be abolished. And, as modern genocides prove, any law can be enacted and justified. The question isn’t can we change law or can we abolish and reconstitute our government, but rather will we?

    I’d argue that Americans are today addicted to wanting more security, more government care. Despite our protestations of wanting to live like John Rambo in a sod house free of government controls, will any of us actually put up with personally getting less stuff from government? The addiction of journalists to their own nonsense is ultimately no less than average Americans are addicted to being watchers in today’s shrinking electronic world. We want but a cell in the hive with a good internet connection.

    The left tells Americans to step forward and the right says step back. But we aren’t looking down carefully enough to see if we are in a meadow or a mine field. We hotly feel our way when we should in cool rationality think our way. Heartfelt social obligation and patriotism on the left and right tend to fog one’s vision. Sober thought is needed. But being sober isn’t fun.

  27. Native American says:

    Jane Kleeb calls her pipeline fighters the “Cowboy and Indian Alliance”. Isn’t that racist? Shouldn’t it be “Urban Challenged and Native American”?

  28. Those supporting Sasse/Osborn says:

    Should they win, how do you get over the fact that they’ll be forever indebted to their PAC supporters and not their fellow Nebraskans? Isn’t this exact thing what is so wrong with our current system?

    I won’t hold my breath for an honest response..

  29. The fact is that Obamacare is the law of the land

    BWAHAHAHA! Tell that to Obama.

    The great thing is, we don’t have to repeal it. Obama has set the precedent that any part of the law can be eliminated on his say so. All a Republican president will have to do is to refuse to enforce page 1 – 2346 of the monstrosity.

    The GOP tried to suspend the individual mandate for a year. The Dems dug in their heels. Now Obama has dictated that the individual mandate can be waived if you simply declare policies available are too expensive.

    The GOP tried to allow people to keep their existing plans. The Dems refused to negotiate on that too; now Obama is doing it by Executive Order.

    #31 is delusional, in other words.

  30. Ricky says:

    The loons on this page compare Obamacare to slavery and genocide. That is how off base the GOP has become on the ACA.
    Providing health care to millions of Americans is not comparable to genocide or slavery. Or am I missing something? Oh yea I am missing how deranged the GOP, especially the House and Lee Terry, when it comes to our great President Obama.
    And I am still waiting to hear how Sasse or Osborne or any rich white man running for Senate can have the law repealed. Ask Jim Rome to step down from his post promoting the University and post that question to somebody sometime.

    ricky from omaha

  31. Frank Krejci's Crossroads Money says:

    Well how about that Omaha tax payers looks like I have convinced Mayor Stothert and the Omaha city council to grant me millions upon millions of dollars to put up a mall on 72nd and Dodge.
    I have so much pull I even talked the Republican Mayor into enacting a new tax, an “occupation” tax on the purchases there to fund the improvements.
    And of course we talked the Omaha City Council into “blighting” many square miles of perfectly fine neighborhoods, (Franklin Thompson voted to “blight” his own neighborhood. And Ricky Fulton’s house has been declared to be in a sub-standard neighborhood as well). Because we need some TIF, a kick back scheme Omaha loves so much, for my baby.
    And who cares that the whiney guy from MECA Jay Noddle objects to government picking winners or losers in Omaha development, I am going all out to promote the fifty million dollar bond issue by putting money into ads supporting the project.
    It took a lot of years to make the Crossroads Mall as shabby as it looks now, but soon it will all pay off for me in the form of unprecedented kickbacks from the city.

  32. To Sasse/Osborn says:

    You have to raise money to win these races and with the federal limits on individual contributions (which should have been declared unconstitutional) there aren’t enough donors in Nebraska who will max out and allow you to run a competitive race. But if you want the realpolitik answer, as they are both about 40 each one will be in there a long time and won’t have to worry much about getting re-elected absent a major screw-up. So their realistic chances of getting “forced” to cast votes against what they perceive as the state’s interests are pretty low.

  33. To Ricky says:

    If the ACA is so awesome, why isn’t the Obama adminstration ready to implement it and enforce it? What is their defense in not implementing only part of the ACA? What is your defense for them? If Obama was a Republican and failed to enforce this law, would you ask for impeachment?

  34. I see our D.C. ousider says:

    got another endorsement today. This time from Sarah Palin who I guess is a D.C. outsider as well. Plus another 300k media buy from a PAC. This guy is the most connected D.C. outsider I’ve ever seen.

  35. @48 says:

    Money can’t buy you love. Sasse’s strategy to stay out of Nebraska is probably a good idea because that way fewer Nebraskans will actually meet him.

  36. NebraskANN says:

    @47 Hmmm. A lifetime banker (who took over the family bank) supported Dodd-Frank? Do you suppose he knows enough of those big dogs in the banking industry to understand they need a leash?

  37. Drew to 41 and 48 and 50 says:

    You did not read the World Herald story about who is raising money from whom. Sasse has raised far more money from Nebraskans than Osborn has. In fact, only Dinsdale has a tiny lead over Sasse in raising money from Nebraskans.

    This is where many on the board have not figured this out. You can’t just pick a candidate for Federal office who sounds good and makes a great speech and is good on the issues. You need resumes. You need candidates with a solid lock on a worldview and have tactics to boot. This is why Nebraskans give to these national organizations to vet the candidates. I will be lucky if I can ask a candidate more than a couple of questions but these national groups do far more than ask just a couple of questions, they grill the candidates. So spit all you want but I wish you would stop spitting in to the wind. It just keeps hitting you back in the face.

  38. Anonymous says:

    Sarah Palin, the half-term half-wit, gives her support to Sasse. That’s about as helpful as a good case of jock itch.

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