So, is this really the grass roots speaking to Washington? Or is it more accurately seen as a cadre of conservative groups, largely working out of Washington, rising up with a ton of cash to persuade voters to listen to them? It’s hard to see Nebraska’s primary as a mass revolt. The Nebraska secretary of state’s Web site reported Wednesday morning that primary turnout (in both parties) came to 316,124 out of 1,152,180 registered Nebraskans. Sasse won with around 110,000 votes.
The grass-roots claim becomes more problematic when you consider that Sasse has rather a lot of Washington experience while one of his opponents, former state treasurer Shane Osborn, was the favorite of many Nebraska tea party groups. As Jim Newell noted in an insightful piece in Salon, FreedomWorks, one of the Washington-based operations that latched onto the tea party early, initially endorsed Osborn but switched to Sasse. The stated reason for the turnabout was the support Osborn got from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell who, for the time being, is cast by some on the right as an enemy.
Needless to say, the local tea party faithful who preferred Osborn resented the machinations of the big money groups headquartered in the nation’s capital, whose competition resembles nothing so much as a “Game of Thrones” power struggle.