Sunday: Nine days out

Nebraskans have weighed in on what they think of Senate candidate Ben Sasse’s ad that has his daughters discussing Obamacare, and over the weekend we got to see what Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics, thinks.
TheHillMay4SasseKids

The Sasse ad was one of many Sabato critiqued for an article in The Hill on the use of surrogates in campaign ads. With approval ratings for politicians somewhere on the level of used car salesmen, candidates commonly turn to others — often their relatives — to vouch for their character and commitment.

In case you missed it, the 30-second spot features gloomy music in the background, a close up on the girls talking about how their dad “despises” Obamacare and how they pray for the other Senate candidates every morning. And then, as if to show how they are just normal little girls after all, despite their intense thoughts on policy issues, we get two seconds of one of them saying she wants a pony.

uVoted4them has no problem with the use of children in campaign ads, but we would much rather see Sasse’s children in their normal roles of being children.

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The York News Times has endorsed Jon Bruning for governor, rejected both 3rd District U.S. Rep. Adrian Smith and his GOP challenger Tom Brewer, and taken a pass on choosing one of the Republicans vying to succeed Mike Johanns in the Senate.

Publisher Greg Awtry was disappointed by the late April debate between Smith and Brewer. Smith, he says, talks a good game about controlling government spending, but government spending has risen 46 percent over the course of Smith’s career in Congress, and the national debt has doubled. The clincher for Awtry seems to be both candidates’ support for the Keystone XL pipeline.

“We can’t endorse Col. Tom Brewer after his dismal performance (at the debate), and we sure can’t endorse Adrian Smith after his misguided allegiance to foreign oil pipeline companies over his own constituents fighting the Keystone XL. You see, Smith thinks it’s fine for a foreign corporation to take control of farmers’ and ranchers’ land in his Third Congressional District by using the power of eminent domain, and Brewer misstated the incorrect myth that this oil would help us import less oil from the Middle East.”

(For the record, most oil imported into the United States comes from Canada or Latin America. Brewer has erred on this throughout the campaign. At first, uVoted4them.com chose to give him a pass because he was a soldier and not a political pro, but campaigns should be learning experiences. After months on the trail, he’s still stuck in some other decade on this issue — not an encouraging sign.)

Here’s what publisher Awtry said about the four Republicans running for Senate.

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Read for yourself the News Times’ voter guide here.

So much news, so little time

This might be a good weekend to visit Roku’s Channel Store or the neighborhood Redbox if you want to avoid the onslaught of campaign ads during the final 11 days of the primary campaign.

In just the Senate race alone, the Washington Post reports that Ben Sasse’s campaign plans to air $200,000 in ads, Shane Osborn’s campaign has purchased $120,000 worth of air time and Sid Dinsdale’s campaign is going up with $80,000 in ads.

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From the Federal Election Commission independent expenditure filings, come these recent tidbits:

  • Since switching its endorsement from Osborn to Sasse, FreedomWorks for America has spent about $13,500 for online ads supporting Sasse and another thousand on email, social media and printing.
  • Tea Party Patriotic Citizens Fund, another pro-Sasse group, has spent about $17,000 on telemarketing. Those are the folks to blame when your phone rings.
  •  The Senate Conservatives Fund has spent another $27,500 on direct mail and the online processing of contributions, which brings its total outside support to Sasse to $496,303.20
  • Club for Growth Action, another PAC supporting Sasse, has spent more than $220,000 since April 24 for production costs and TV ad time for anti-Osborn ads.
  • Freedom Pioneer Action Network spent $103,525.80 on April 28 for advertising services and communications opposing Sasse.
  • America Inc. spent $50,000 on May 2 for digital production costs and online ads opposing Dinsdale.
  • The FEC says Nebraska Senate candidates have benefited from  $1,536,131.10 in independent expenditures thus far.

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Additionally, the Leavenworth Street political blog has reported that a $200,000 ad buy for the May 3-12 period that was originally purchased by Ensuring a Conservative Nebraska has been handed off to The 60 Plus Association.

As you may recall, Ben Sasse’s great uncle, Rupert Dunklau of Fremont, gave Ensuring a Conservative Nebraska $100,000 last month to finance an anti-Osborn ad. Dunklau, a retired Valmont executive, was the PAC’s sole contributor.

Maybe Uncle Rupert, a well-known philanthropist in the Fremont area, is tired of seeing his name attached to negative ads. In any event, it was unseemly for Sasse, whose campaign told the Omaha World-Herald that Sasse asked his uncle to donate to the group, to claim he’s running a clean campaign at the same time he’s asking relatives for contributions for attack ads.

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Before leaving the topic of outside money in campaigns entirely, the Wesleyan Media Project has issued a report saying that outside interest groups sponsored, on average, 59 percent of the TV ads that have run in Senate races this cycle. In 2012, it was 51 percent.

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Two new polls came out this week for the Nebraska Senate race. Neither meets the reliability criteria for mainstream media coverage, and both raise as many questions as they answer, but they follow below. Forewarned is forearmed.

The first one came from the Sasse campaign and shows him leading with 31 percent, Osborn six points behind at 25 percent, and Dinsdale in third with 22 percent. Bart McLeay was fourth with 5 percent, and Clifton R. Johnson fifth with 3 percent. Undecideds: 12 percent.

The second is from Tea Party Express. It has Sasse leading Osborn 29.2 percent to 26.8 percent. Dinsdale is third with 12.8 percent and Bart McLeay trailed with 3.3 percent. Undecideds: 27.9 percent.

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Sasse-backers are advancing the storyline that the Osborn campaign is dead in the water, and Dinsdale is rapidly gaining ground. It may be true, or it may be just what Ben’s supporters want you to believe. What could be better for Sasse than to have Osborn, the overwhelming favorite at the start of the campaign, to be now perceived as flailing?

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You know you’re doing well when they start attacking you, which should be slim comfort to Sid Dinsdale. Erick Erickson at the Red State blog, who has endorsed Sasse, wrote this week that Sid Dinsdale’s daughter was a board member at Planned Parenthood, and that both Dinsdale’s daughter and his wife were contributors to pro-abortion groups.

Dinsdale said his family has never contributed to pro-choice groups. It was Dinsdale’s sister who was once a member of the Planned Parenthood board. Dinsdale himself has been endorsed by Nebraska Right to Life.

While he was at it, Erickson also frothed that Dinsdale is a really a Democrat. Some of it is pretty silly stuff, but it’s hard to believe the daughter/sister mixup was an innocent mistake. There have been plenty of pictures of the Dinsdale family on Twitter and whatnot. Sid’s daughters aren’t old enough to be serving on those types of boards.

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Both Nebraska Sens. Mike Johanns and Deb Fischer voted with the majority of their Republican colleagues to stall a measure to raise the national minimum wage.

Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee was the only Republican to vote for allowing  an up-or-down vote. He said he doesn’t support raising the minimum wage, but thinks the issue should be debated.

Raising the minimum wage is a longshot right now, but Democrats are hoping to build enough public pressure this midterm election year to finally get it through. The bill is sponsored by Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, who is retiring from the Senate next year.

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You can also expect another symbolic vote next week in the Senate, this one involving the Keystone XL pipeline. Democrats in tight reelection battles are eager to cast a vote that tells constituents they want the pipeline built now. The vote might come on a nonbinding “sense of the Senate” resolution or an actual law. Any legislation would likely be vetoed, however, leaving the vote meaningless.

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A belated happy birthday to country music icon Willie Nelson, who turned 81, and Attorney General, and Republican candidate for governor, Jon Bruning. He turned 45 this week.

Saturday edition

Dave Domina, Nebraska's Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate

Dave Domina, Nebraska’s Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate

Democratic Senate candidate Dave Domina has announced via Twitter that he will appear on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday. uVoted4them.com is betting that Domina will appear on a segment about the proposed Keystone Pipeline. (Preview it here.) Domina is one of the lawyers on the front-lines in the legal battle between property owners and the pipeline’s owner, TransCanada.

“Meet the Press” appears at different times around the country, usually scheduled around local affiliates’ religious programming. You can watch the program online here.

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Congratulations to Joe Ricketts’ Ending Spending PAC for finding its way into FactCheck.org’s Players Guide 2014, an info-base about  groups seeking to influence elections this year. Members are largely selected based on the amounts they spend and/or the media attention they receive. FactCheck.org also has a nice section, Party Lines, that untangles truth from fiction in common political arguments.

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House Republicans made their 55th stab at repealing Obamacare last week when they voted to pass a measure that would change the definition of full-time work.

Nebraska Reps. Lee Terry, Adrian Smith and Jeff Fortenberry all voted for the Save Workers Act of 2014, which would redefine “full-time” work for the purposes of Obamacare as a 40-hour work week. Currently, employees qualify for coverage under Obamacare if they work 30 hours per week.

Eighteen Democratic House members facing stiff primary elections joined 230 Republicans in voting for the measure. Chances that it will go anywhere in the Democratically controlled Senate? Zero.

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Nebraska Senate candidate Ben Sasse and Utah Sen. Mike Lee shared a byline April 3 in an anti-Obamacare op-ed in the uber-conservative Washington Examiner. There’s nothing new for Nebraskans who’ve been following Sasse. It’s the same old Obama-is-a-liar and Obamacare-is-awful spiel.The Examiner is owned by the same billionaire who owns The Weekly Standard.

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 As American politicians continue to haggle over raising the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10, the German parliament is expected to take up a proposal that would set that nation’s minimum wage at the dollar-equivalent of $11.75. The German cabinet approved the increase last week and, if passed by parliament, would give Germans their first official minimum wage. Current law simply forbids employers from paying “immoral wages.” Trade unions and business groups generally regulate wages.

Each of Nebraska’s four Republican candidates for Senate — Sid Dinsdale, Bart McLeay, Shane Osborn and Ben Sasse — opposes raising the minimum wage for American workers, and all said at a recent debate that they would be fine with eliminating the minimum wage altogether. Democratic candidate for Senate Dave Domina supports raising the minimum wage.

 

A little bit of everything

The good news for Michael Wilson is that, at 20, his arrest for underage drinking will qualify for one of those “young and dumb” excuses when he runs for office at 40.

Michael Wilson says his M.I.P arrest shouldn't affect voters, because he's the same person he was before he was arrested. Ah, youth. No, Michael, you are now a person with a rap sheet.

Michael Wilson says his M.I.P arrest shouldn’t affect voters, because he’s the same person he was before he was arrested. Ah, youth. No, Michael, you are now a person with a rap sheet.

The bad news for Michael Wilson is that his current campaign for Ward 1 of the Fremont City Council is probably over.

The MIP arrest was bad enough, but what has a lot Fremont residents talking is Wilson’s it’s-no-big-deal comments to the Fremont Tribune:
Michael Wilson

Many Fremonters will undoubtedly think twice about voting for a candidate too dumb to understand what every other underage college kid knows: You don’t drink noisily in public, at loud parties, where annoyed neighbors are likely to call the police. Wilson, by the way, just turned 20 in March. He studies political science and public relations at Midland University.

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It’s been difficult keeping up with endorsements in the Nebraska Senate race. We hope we’re not leaving anyone out.

Sid Dinsdale — Former congressman and Gov. Charles Thone. Former Nebraska football coach and U.S. Rep. Tom Osborne. Sarpy County board member Don Kelly and Sarpy County Attorney Lee Polikov. Mayors David Black of Papillion, Doug Kindig of LaVista, Scott Kudrna of Auburn, Rick Landwehr of Lorton, and Jim Timmerman of Gretna.

Bart McLeay — Former U.S. Rep. Jon Christensen of Nebraska’s 2nd District and former U.S. Sen. David Karnes.

Shane Osborn — Steve Forbes, publishing mogul and former presidential candidate, Phyllis Schlafly, National Defense PAC, Combat Veterans for Congress PAC, National Vietnam and Gulf War Veterans Coalition, Family-PAC Federal, Concerned Women PAC, radio host Rick Amato, and former 3rd District U.S. Rep. Bill Barrett. Former Creighton Law School Dean Patrick Borchers has also endorsed Osborn, as have a dozen or so former or current Nebraska state senators. They include Ray Aguilar, Colby Coash, Pat Engle, Scott Lautenbaugh, Bill Kintner, Rich Pahls, and Scott Price.

Ben Sasse — CatholicVote.org, Freedom Works, Senate Conservatives Fund, Club for Growth, Dick Armey, Rep. Paul Ryan, National Review, Red State blogger Erick Erickson, radio host Mark Levin, Sen. Tom Coburn, Gun Owners for America, Family Research Council, Sen. Mike Lee, and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

Additionally, all four Republican Senate candidates have been endorsed by Nebraska Right to Life.

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After the defeat of measures that would expand Medicaid and raise the minimum wage in Nebraska, a group of state senators is sponsoring a Rally for Working Families next week at the state Capitol. It starts at 5:30 p.m. April 8 on the west (Lincoln statue) side of the Capitol. Check here for more information. Sponsoring Senators include Jeremy Nordquist, Danielle Conrad and Heath Mello.

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Nebraska’s Ricketts family is using their Ending Spending super PAC to launch attack ads against Michelle Nunn, a Democrat who is running for the U.S. Senate in Georgia. Ending Spending is spending $150,000 on media time to run the ad that attacks Nunn for — what else? — supporting Obamacare.

Nunn has been polling well, leading three of the four Republican candidates to replace the retiring Sen. Saxby Chambliss, and is tied with the Republican frontrunner, U.S. Rep. Paul Broun. Democrats consider Georgia a state where they may pick up a Senate seat. Among those campaigning for Nunn are Vice President Joe Biden.

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It’s not often that we get emails from Sen. Mike Johanns, so his warning about a phishing scam must be important. A group purporting to be the Taxpayer Advocate Service is attempting to collect personal information through an email saying that your 2013 return has been flagged and that you should contact the group. Sen. Johanns recommends not clicking on any of the links and forwarding the email to phishing@irs.gov

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Finally, uVoted4them.com has had enough of the complaints about the legislature’s override of a bill allocating state funds for the renovation of the state Capitol. We’ve been to capitols all over the country, and Nebraska has a one-of-a-kind, the likes of which will never be built again. For those Nebraskans who take for granted our work of art, we post this photo from a current AP story about Art Deco muralist Hildreth Meiere, one of the world-class artists on display every day in Lincoln.

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Abortion, the big stage and the airwaves

Nebraska Sen. Deb Fischer appears to be among a group of lawmakers being vetted by the Susan B. Anthony List as potential anti-abortion candidates on the national stage.

Fischer, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, talk show host Mike Huckabee and Utah Sen. Mike Lee were the top names at SBA’s annual Gala & Summit last week in Washington.

Word is that the right-wing group is unhappy that the last two Republican presidential nominees were more concerned about economic issues than social concerns, so it’s looking for anti-abortion candidates it can support in the 2016 primaries.

Part of that effort is finding a way to recast the abortion debate in terms that make it more acceptable to women voters. Fischer attempted to do that during the Susan B. Anthony List event:

“Abortion is not a woman’s issue,” she said. “It is not a men’s issue. it is not a health care issue. It is a violence issue.”

An issue of violence? That argument that is not likely to sway pro-choice female voters, but Fischer did better than Lee, Huckabee and Cruz, who had only red meat to offer the audience.

Huckabee predicted that if abortion is not stopped this generation, the next generation will be killing the elderly. Lee said pro-life voters are savages who embrace a culture of death. Not to be outdone, Cruz called them ruthless worshipers of Satan.

Fischer, in only her second year in the Senate, isn’t likely to find herself in the presidential mix in 2016, but who knows? If male candidates fail to charm female voters in 2016, Fischer might find herself very nicely positioned in 2020.

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Each of the four major candidates for Mike Johanns’ Senate seat have been endorsed by the anti-abortion Nebraska Right to Life PAC. They are Omaha banker Sid Dinsdale, Omaha lawyer Bart McLeay, former state Treasurer Shane Osborn, and Midland University President Ben Sasse.

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Shane Osborn’s campaign, meanwhile, is launching its first television commercial. About a month ago, the organization Special Operations for America ran a 30-second ad independent of the Osborn campaign, but this is the first commercial paid for by the campaign. Roll Call quotes an Osborn source as saying they made an $80,000 ad buy.

Palin endorses Sasse; more poll numbers

Former Alaska Gov. and Tea Party princess Sarah Palin has endorsed Ben Sasse in the Nebraska Senate race.

“Ben Sasse is the clear conservative choice in the Nebraska Senate Race,” Palin said in her endorsement on Facebook.

“He’s witnessed firsthand the corrosive effect big government policies can have, and he knows that Obamacare is as bad as it gets. Ben is a leader we need in D.C. now! He won’t forget who sent him there because his life is firmly grounded in his small town Nebraska roots.”

Palin, who served half a term as Alaska governor and was Sen. John McCain’s running mate in 2008, announced on her Facebook page Wednesday that she would soon endorse a string of candidates who had been both thoroughly vetted and were bound to “shake things up.”

Palin and Sasse not only share  a common conservative objection to Obamacare, but also a love of guns.

Nebraska Senate candidate Ben Sasse and his wife celebrated Valentine's Day this year with a romantic evening of gunfire -- an event they shared on Twitter.

Nebraska Senate candidate Ben Sasse and his wife celebrated Valentine’s Day this year with a romantic evening of gunfire — an event they shared on Twitter.

For what it’s worth, Shane Osborn defeated “undecided” 35 percent to 30 percent in a recent poll by Breitbart News and The Polling Company. Ben Sasse came in third with 24 percent. Support for the rest of the Republican field — Sid Dinsdale, Bart McLeay and Clifton Johnson — was in the single digits.

The poll showed that ridding the nation of Obamacare was the main concern of poll respondents, with Osborn leading Sasse 35 percent to 28 percent among those who strongly oppose Obamacare. Forty-three percent of those polled said economic issues were the main factor in their preference.

uVoted4them.com puts this poll in the for-what-it’s worth category for several reasons:

  • Only six weeks ago, the Sasse campaign was trumpeting the news that Sasse had pulled into a dead heat with Osborn in a poll sponsored by the Conservative Intelligence Briefing blog.
  • None of the polls so far has met commonly accepted polling standards. The Sasse surge poll also raised questions about conflicts-of-interest by reporters Scott Clement and Peyton Craighill at the Washington Post.
  • It’s a Breitbart poll.

Are we going to have to wait until May 13 to find out what voters are really thinking?

McLeay launches 1st campaign ad

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Republican Sen. candidate Bart McLeay has launched his first televison commercial with a statewide ad buy in the neighborhood of $100,000. The spot debuted during NBC’s coverage of the Olympics, and will be running for the next few weeks.

Some blogs have panned the folksy commercial featuring McLeay’s family, but it’s a nice change from the typical political talking head, and the McLeay family shows a natural talent for delivering lines. Catch it on YouTube if you miss it on your small screen.

McLeay is an Omaha native, business lawyer and partner at the Omaha law firm of Kutak Rock. He played football for a year at the University of Arizona and graduated from the University of Virginia law school.

According to his campaign web site, he is pro-gun, pro-life and pro-flat tax. He supports limited government and cutting spending “back to basics and budget(ing) within our means.” He says he would replace Obamacare with a free-market-based alternative, which may pique your interest because the basis of Obamacare is having Americans buy insurance on the free market.

Learn more about candidate McLeay at BartMcLeay.com

Poll: Sasse closing gap on Osborn in Senate race

According to a newly released poll, Midland University President Ben Sasse has nearly closed the gap on Shane Osborn in the race for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Mike Johanns.

The Harper Polling numbers show Osborn leading with 30.44 percent of support among likely Republican primary voters, and Sasse coming in second with 29.03 percent. Osborn’s lead is within the poll’s 4 percent margin of error. “Not sure” came in third with 23.19 percent of the vote. Bank executive Sid Dinsdale was fourth with 13.10 percent and attorney Bart McLeay was fifth with 4.25 percent.

Even more interesting, the poll shows that Attorney General Jon Bruning would jump to the lead in the governor’s race if he were to enter. Bruning would take 35 percent of the likely voters, compared with Pete Ricketts’ 16 percent, according to the Harper Poll.

The poll shows a huge leap in popularity for Sasse. A poll conducted by the Osborn campaign in October, showed the former Navy pilot with a commanding lead over the field. Osborn came in with 39 percent. Sasse and Dinsdale trailed with 7 percent and McLeay had 1 percent.

The newest poll was sponsored by the blog Conservative Intelligence Briefing. It contacted 565 likely Republican primary voters. Harper Polling conducts interactive voice-response polls, also known as robo-polls, which are generally considered less accurate than polls conducted with human interviewers. Many news organizations consider them so unreliable that they do not report the results of robo-polls.

One problem with robo-polls is that they are usually programmed only to call phones on land lines, which Americans have abandoned in large numbers. Democrats have used robo-polls for years, and Republicans have recently turned to them because live interview polls ahead of the 2012 presidential election turned out to be disastrously wrong. They are also much cheaper to conduct than live polls.

Notes from the campaign trail, Part 2

Rumor has it that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, all but certain to be a 2016 presidential candidate, will be the main draw at a Nebraska Republican Party fundraiser this spring. Stay tuned for details.

After months of speculation, Omaha attorney David Domina is set to announce his candidacy for U.S. Senate as a Democrat. Rumors swirled for months that Domina would take the plunge for either the Senate seat opened by Mike Johanns’ retirement or challenge U.S. Rep. Lee Terry for the 2nd District seat. Domina’s announcement is scheduled for 9 a.m. Tuesday at the Capitol Rotunda. After a luncheon in Omaha, he’ll embark on a six-day tour of the state.

Bart McLeay, an Omaha attorney and Republican candidate for Senate, has a new video about agriculture. McLeay’s grandfather served Nebraska’s farmers and ranchers after opening a medical practice in Stapleton in 1900, and McLeay says he will continue to fight for Nebraska’s ag producers. As a lawyer, he has represented landowners along the Niobrara River and protected irrigation rights on the Republican River.

Over the weekend, Jordan Gehrke senior advisor to Republican Senate candidate Ben Sasse,  Tweeted this unseemly artwork. Two unrelated quotes taken out of context and made 50 years apart? Very classy, Sasse. What’s next? Hitler and Obama?

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Notes from the campaign trail

1st District Rep. Jeff Fortenberry was the only member of Nebraska’s delegation in Washington to vote for the $1.1 trillion budget bill. Regardless, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014 passed easily (72-26) without the support of Sens. Mike Johanns and Deb Fischer or Reps. Lee Terry and Adrian Smith (359-67).

Shane Osborn, Republican candidate for Senate, found himself in hot water Thursday after a Tweet that criticized the new omnibus budget plan as a “short bus to nowhere.” A short bus is a small school bus often used to transport children with disabilities, and the reference was derogatory. Osborn apologized and yanked the tweet, but fortunately there’s a website where it lives on in infamy. Among those who saw the tweet was Jordan Gehrke, a senior advisor to rival Ben Sasse, who responded: “Agree. Awful bill but mocking special needs kids?”

Conservative radio host Mark Levin has endorsed Republican Senate candidate Ben Sasse. Levin, who uses his show to bash all things Obama, most recently accused the president of attempting to stage a “gradual, quiet coup,” through his use of executive orders. Sasse also has a new video featuring his toddler in which he talks about contraception, abortion and Obamacare. Who’s listening, though, with an adorable kid in the scene?

Bart McLeay has snagged the endorsement of his fellow Kutak Rock law partner, former U.S. Sen. Dave Karnes,  and former U.S. Rep Jon Christensen of Nebraska’s 2nd District. In 1988, Gov. Kay Orr appointed Karnes to serve the remainder of U.S. Sen. Ed Zorinsky’s term after his untimely death. Christensen served two terms in the House, from 1995-99.

Rep. Lee Terry has a new campaign manager, Kevin Conroy, who’s worked on both on the Hill as a staffer and in a bunch of Republican campaigns. In 2008, he was field coordinator for both Rudy Giuliani and Fred Thompson in the all-important New Hampshire presidential primary. We wish him better luck in Nebraska.

Mark your calendars now:

  • Jan. 27, Union-busting Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker will appear at an Omaha campaign rally for Pete Ricketts, a candidate for Nebraska governor. The Ricketts family, individually and through the Ending Spending Action Fund, heavily backed Walker in his 2012 recall battle.
  • Jan. 28, President Obama’s State of the Union address.
  • Jan. 29, the first debate for Republican senate candidates at the Gering Civic Center. The sleepy Scotts Bluff County town of 8,500 will give the candidates a chance to dust off their debate skills before the main events..
  • Feb. 4, National Republican Senatorial Committee fundraiser for Shane Osborne in Washington.