Tea Party favorite Ben Sasse won the Republican nomination for an open Senate seat in Nebraska Tuesday night, after a heated and costly primary battle that drew heavy national attention.
Sasse, a university president, was able to hold off former state treasurer Shane Osborn and dark horse candidate Sid Dinsdale, who had begun to surge in recent weeks. Sasse grabbed 49 percent of the vote with Dinsdale finishing second and Osborn finishing third, according to preliminary returns.
“We were never doing this because we need another job,” Sasse told supporters Tuesday night. “We were only going to do this if we were going to talk about big, bold conservative ideas.”
The win makes Sasse a huge favorite in November’s general election, where he’ll face Democrat Dave Domina, an Omaha attorney. The winner will replace Republican Mike Johanns, who didn’t seek a second term.
Sasse, the president of Midland University, had steadily gained the backing of some of the most influential conservative groups and figures. His victory is a huge win for the Tea Party, as the movement has struggled to gain traction this year in the primaries.
Osborn had the backing of allies of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and ran an aggressive campaign. Further scrambling the race, Pinnacle Bank President Dinsdale had sought to capitalize on the Sasse-Osborn fight and had climbed in the polls.
In recent weeks, big names gravitated to Sasse’s side, including Sarah Palin and Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz. Sasse also has the backing of the Club for Growth, the Tea Party Patriots, the Senate Conservatives Fund and FreedomWorks….
…Outside groups and the candidates have spent millions on the race in which the GOP winner is widely expected to prevail in November. The National Republican Senatorial Committee, the party’s campaign operation, remained neutral.
The Tea Party movement has struggled in earlier contests, with their favored candidates losing to establishment favorites in Texas, North Carolina and Ohio.
Looking ahead to upcoming primaries, the Tea Party’s chances to upset incumbents have been diminishing in Kentucky, Kansas, Idaho and Mississippi.