Updated Wednesday 4 p.m.
By Deena Winter | Nebraska Watchdog
LINCOLN, Neb. – An independent poll taken in mid-April has Nebraska’s Senate race in a statistical dead-heat, with newcomer Ben Sasse leading with over 29 percent, followed closely by Shane Osborn with nearly 27 percent.
The poll showed Omaha banker Sid Dinsdale garner nearly 13 percent of likely GOP primary voters’ support – considerably less than a more recent internal Sasse poll that had Dinsdale trailing Osborn by just 3 percent. Omaha attorney Bart McLeay trailed with just 3 percent.
The poll was commissioned by the Tea Party Express, the nation’s largest tea party political action committee. The Tea Party Express has been a big player in the tea party movement since it sprang up prior to the 2010 elections.
However, in the hotly contested GOP primary race that lately has revolved around which candidate has the most genuine Tea Party support in Nebraska, the poll showed Sasse had a 12-point advantage among self-identified Tea Party supporters, garnering 37 percent to Osborn’s 25 percent. Sasse had a 71 percent favorability rating among Tea Partiers, compared to Osborn’s 65 percent.
Tea Party Express Chief Strategist Sal Russo said the poll shows Sasse leading with “the most energetic voting block: the self-identified Tea Party supporters.”
“This primary will be decided by the Tea Party support as 23 percent of Tea Party supporters are still undecided, which means they will likely tip the scales to the winning candidate,” he said.
The statewide, live caller telephone survey of 400 likely Republican primary voters was conducted April 16-20 by NSON Opinion Strategy of Salt Lake City, Utah. The group did not release crosstabs.
The Tea Party Express bus rolled into Omaha Wednesday for a rally that featured many statewide candidates, including Sasse, Osborn, Dinsdale and McLeay. Russo said the rally was a good opportunity for the candidates to make “one last pitch” to Tea Partiers.
Osborn’s campaign manager, Bill Novotny, said in response to the recent polls, “Shane Osborn always prepared for a close race and built a grassroots operation of Nebraskans who will deliver victory on May 13th.”
“Shane has withstood attacks by Ben Sasse and his Washington, D.C., special interest supporters who are trying to buy a Senate seat with misleading and untrue advertisements,” he said via email.
Taylor Budowich, executive director of the Tea Party Express, said he’s not sure whether the group will make an endorsement in the race.
“There are many good candidates in the U.S. Senate race, which makes the decision to endorse tough,” he said. “However, we are looking at it closely, along with many other competitive races.”
Sasse also picked up a coveted endorsement Wednesday from the Nebraska Farm Bureau, marking only the second time the farm group has made an endorsement in a statewide primary. The other time was in 2006, when they endorsed Gov. Dave Heineman over Tom Osborne.
The winner of the May 13 primary takes on Democrat David Domina in November.
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