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Sen. Ben Sasse is firebombing President Trump on key domestic and foreign policy issues, criticism that accelerated in July after the Nebraska Republican had muted their differences leading up to his contested spring primary.

On July 17, Sasse accused Trump of “strategic incompetence” that is “Jimmy Carter-level weak” for floating a military pullout from South Korea amid tensions with China and North Korea.

Ten days later, he described negotiations between Congress and the White House on a coronavirus relief package as “Democrats and Trumpers competing to outspend each other.” The very next day, Sasse said Trump’s troop withdrawal from Germany was “weak” and revealed a “lack of strategic understanding.”

The criticism continued Thursday when the senator rapped Trump for suggesting the Nov. 3 general election should be delayed because of looming problems with mail-in voting. This string of zingers amounts to a summer revival of Sasse’s periodic tongue-lashings that date to the beginning of Trump’s term but were put on hiatus after he accepted the president’s endorsement for renomination in Nebraska’s May 12 primary.

Sasse’s office declined to comment for this story.

But his advisers, pointing to actions Sasse took during his primary campaign, reject the notion that the senator censored his criticism of the president in a cynical ploy to maintain the support of his state’s pro-Trump, Republican electorate and defeat primary challenger Matt Innis. Sasse declined Trump’s invitation to become an honorary chairman of his reelection campaign in Nebraska, and he ran a television advertisement on the eve of the primary, highlighting their occasional disagreements.

“He’s ticked off a lot of folks these past six years, from the radical left, to, every now and then, even the president — of his own party,” the voice-over in the spot said, as a picture of Trump, accompanied by a tweet in which the president took a swipe at Sasse, flashed across the screen.

Some Republican primary voters were not amused. The senator bested the underfunded and outmanned Innis but lost seven counties and 25% of the vote to his challenger in the western half of the state, where GOP voters are especially supportive of Trump. To Sasse supporters, the primary results are yet more proof that the senator has never took it easy on the president.

Sasse won his first Senate race in 2014 as a conservative darling, winning a tough primary with the backing of prominent conservative advocacy groups. They trusted Sasse to stick to principles on issues and events that could not be foreseen and might arise in the future.

Two years later, Sasse was in Iowa campaigning against Trump in the Republican presidential primary. The senators said he was there to support any candidate but the man who became the eventual nominee, including Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. Cruz also has lately established some political independence from the White House, possibly in anticipation of mounting a second presidential bid in 2024. Sasse's opposition to Trump continued in Washington after the inauguration, sparking talk that Sasse might challenge the president in the GOP primary this year.

Sasse opted to run for reelection. But in renewing his sharp denunciations of Trump this summer, at the same time that polls show presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden jumping out to a substantial lead ahead of the president — a move that has not gone unnoticed by Republicans in Nebraska, Sasse has generated national speculation he might run for president in 2024. The senator is not doing anything to downplay such talk — and that’s just fine with some Republicans.

“Ben Sasse is a true conservative in the mold of Ronald Reagan,” Republican strategist Jim Dornan said. “When he speaks on an issue, he does it with his heart in the right place."

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Former Minnesota lieutenant governor wins GOP primary, set to face conservative Dem in key battleground race

Former Minnesota Lt. Gov. Michelle Fischbach on Tuesday declared victory in the GOP primary for Minnesota’s 7th congressional district in the rural western part of the state. It sets up what is likely to be one of the most competitive battleground states as the GOP aims to end the 30 year dominance of Democratic incumbent Collin Peterson.

In a contentious five way primary, Fischbach, who earned crucial endorsements from both Minnesota GOP and President Trump in the final weeks, dominated the race by more than 59% of the total vote. She easily defeated out her strongest opponent, Air Force veteran and the GOP challenger from the district in 2016 and 2018, Dave Hughes by almost 40%.

FILE - In this Nov. 22, 2019 file photo, Michelle Fischbach visits a coffee shop in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Steve Karnowski,File)

Despite the key endorsements and Fischbach’s long tenure as a state senator and nearly $350,000 cash advantage, her campaign was frequently caught in controversy.

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Fischbach’s campaign manager was handed a restraining order against Hughes for allegedly calling him more than 300 times in “coordinated attacks” to disrupt virtual campaign speeches. Hughes also filed an FEC complaint accusing Fischbach of accepting more than $20,000 from political action committees that are controlled or influenced by members of her immediate family.

Furthermore, while she was able to secure the endorsement from the Minnesota GOP, it took 8 rounds of voting to gain the 60% needed for endorsement. Indicating that state party officials did not have resounding confidence in her campaign.

Her next challenge will be finding a way to distinguish her conservative brand from Peterson, the 15 term incumbent and chair of the House agriculture committee.

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Peterson is considered one of if not the most conservative members of the house Democratic party. He is anti abortion, has received an A rating from the NRA and was one of two democrats to vote against impeachment of President Trump. His chairmanship of the house agriculture committee also gives him incredible influence in a district where cropland dominates the region. Peterson carried his primary easily with 75% of the vote.

In 2016, Trump managed to win the district by +30%, Rep. Peterson was able to retain his seat by a 5.1%. In order for the GOP to have any chance of taking back the house, candidates will have to dominate in rural districts such as MN-07. A recent Fox News Poll had Trump trailing Former VP Biden by 13% in a statewide race.

2020 may prove to be the perfect year for Fischbach to challenge. Cook Political Report, a non-partisan election rating service, has labeled this race a tossup, Peterson had his smallest margin of victory in 2018 since his first election in 1990, and with Trump on the top of the ticket it may be all she needs to overtake a longtime democratic stronghold.


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