After refusing to rule out a potential 2020 primary challenge to President Donald Trump, “Never Trump” Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) spoke to about 200 Republicans in Story County, Iowa on Friday evening.
Sasse’s excuse was that he was in Iowa because he lost a college football bet and his kids were participating in a triathlon this weekend in the state.
In an interview before his Iowa trip, the insufferable and sanctimonious Sasse would not rule out a potential 2020 presidential run. When CNN asked about his potential presidential ambitions on Sunday, Sasse punted in a way that would have made the late Sam Foltz proud.
According to a McClatchy report, though, Trump still “remains so strong in conservative corners of Trump-friendly states, including Iowa, that party leaders, operatives and grassroots activists say there is no serious on-the-ground discussion of a 2020 challenge at this point.” Many who attended the dinner expressed similar sentiments to local Iowa reporters.
On the record, David Kochel, who was Jeb Bush’s top strategist in 2016 and is described as a “veteran Iowa operative,” told McClatchy that there was no “wholesale movement to look for a candidate in 2020” in Iowa. A “veteran Iowa Republican operative” was then quoted later in the piece saying “for every Iowa Republican that was cheering Jeff Kaufmann’s statements in Cedar Rapids two weeks ago, there’s another Republican who’s very quietly interested in what Ben Sasse has to say.”
“Those Never Trumpers out there, you know what? I’m getting just a little tired of that too. We had Senator Ben Sasse from Nebraska. He crosses the Missouri River and in that sanctimonious tone talked about what he doesn’t like about Donald Trump. You know what Senator Sasse? I really don’t care what you like. We love Donald Trump,” Iowa GOP Chair Jeff Kaufmann said before Trump’s Iowa rally last month. “And if you don’t love him I suggest you stay on your side of the Missouri River.”
Kaufmann also told Politico that Sasse is an “arrogant academic” who is “sanctimonious”
“The most important thing to Ben Sasse is Ben Sasse,” he added.
Establishment Republican operative Mike Murphy, who ran Jeb Bush’s super PAC in 2016 and is notorious for pocketing and blowing millions of dollars from wealthy candidates while losing races, attacked Kaufmann.
Murphy, who reportedly may have pocketed $14 million and angered donors while running Jeb Bush’s disastrously ineffective super PAC during the 2016 election cycle, referred to Kaufmann as a “tier-B seat warmer.” Kaufmann fired back, saying “that’s rich, coming from the C list political operative that enriched himself while running Jeb!’s superpac into the ground.”
That's rich, coming from the C list political operative that enriched himself while running Jeb!'s superpac into the ground. https://t.co/Tgyj39mEEU
— Jeff Kaufmann (@kaufmannGOP) June 22, 2017
— Steve Cortes (@CortesSteve) June 23, 2017
Sasse is the dream candidate for “Never Trump” professional operatives and tacticians like the ones who dragged Evan McMullin to run for president so they could get on television and get quotes in legacy media publications.
But should Sasse run for president, even reporters in the establishment press are bearish about his chances. Politico’s Eliana Johnson pointed out last month that Sasse’s anti-Trump stance in 2016 won him “respect and adulation” from “elites in New York, Washington… and San Francisco,” but not “among voters in Nebraska.”
Johnson predicted that if Sasse runs for president, there will not be “a lot of enthusiasm” for him or a “groundswell among grassroots voters across the country.” She ultimately pictured Sasse as someone who will stay in the Senate or run a think tank because he will have trouble “igniting” the passions of working-class voters.