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.

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.


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, 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.


Read for yourself the News Times’ voter guide here.


Shane Osborn’s Republican campaign for Senate has announced endorsements from DeeDee Kelly and four other Nebraskans prominent in the conservative cause. They are:

    • Laura Ebke, president of Nebraska Liberty Caucus
    • Doug Kagan, president of Nebraska Taxpayers for Freedom
    • Mike Groene, chairman of Western Nebraska Taxpayers Association
    • Sheila Heieck, president of Omaha Liberty Ladies


Tom Brewer, the retired Army colonel who is opposing 3rd District U.S. Rep. Adrian Smith in the May primary, is hosting an event from 7-9 p.m. Thursday at Ole’s Big Game Lounge in Paxton.


Condolences to the family of Robert Keith Gray, a pioneering public relations and lobbying icon in Washington, D.C., who was born in Hastings, Neb. Hall started his Washington career in the Eisenhower administration, then became an operative for Hill & Knowlton. He opened Gray & Co. in 1981, and it became the first publicly traded public relations firm listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

Gray, along with Joyce Hall and the brothers who founded Hallmark, were beacons of hope to decades of Nebraska J-School students. Although neither attended the University of Nebraska — Gray had an MBA from Harvard — they were living tributes to the idea that hard work and diligence could take a Nebraskan anywhere. Gray was 92.

Short Takes

If you missed the debut of Nebraska’s first campaign commercial of the 2014 season during Saturday’s Chiefs-Colts game, the 30-second spot is set to air again during Monday’s national championship game between Florida State and Auburn.

Or, if you don’t want to wait that long, there’s a link to a sneak peak at Republican Ben Sasse’s campaign Facebook page that will take you there.

Sasse, president of Midland University in Fremont, announced an ad buy for the BCS championship game last month. The campaign said it was working with conservative media guru Fred Davis, who is known for his unconventional ads.

Davis, nephew of Oklahoma Sen., James Inhofe, grabbed national attention for turning immigration-friendly Arizona Sen. John McCain into a tough-talking anti-immigrant superhero during a difficult primary race. More recently, he produced unsuccessful Delaware Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell’s “I am not a witch” commercial.

Fortunately, Sasse’s ad is more along the lines of the McCain ad. It’s called “The Outsider” and tries to position Sasse as an outsider to Washington politics, even though he is the only Republican candidate for Senate who has actually worked in Washington — a city where he’s held a number of jobs in government.

It’s an attention-getting ad that suggests towing the US. Capitol behind a Mack truck to Nebraska, the land of common sense, free from “influence peddlers.”

Sasse leads the Republican field in fundraising, with substantial out-of-state donations from big-dollar super PACs, like Club for Growth and Senate Conservatives Fund.

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Recently retired Army Col. Tom Brewer of Gordon is hoping to replace Rep. Adrian Smith in the 3rd District. Brewer is 36-year veteran who served six tours in Afghanistan and earned two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star there.

While most candidates for the 3rd District vie to be the most conservative of the field, Brewer’s campaign positions have turned out to be refreshingly mixed. He supports  the expansion of Medicaid to insure the poor, but says the rest of the Affordable Care Act should be repealed. Brewer also questions the safety of locating the proposed Keystone XL pipeline so near the Ogallala aquifer.

Seinfeld character Frank Costanza created Festivus as a holiday for the “rest of us.” Maybe Brewer will be the candidate for the rest of us.

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Finally, kudos to Republican Senate candidate Bart McLeay for following his end-of-year fundraising email with a “thank you” email, even sending one to people who did not donate.  Candidates flood inboxes with pleas for money as the quarterly reporting deadlines loom. It’s nice to see one who hasn’t forgotten his manners. McLeay has his own new video, and you can see it here.