On the home front, however, the Nebraska freshman found himself rebuked Saturday by party loyalists upset at his call for a third candidate to arise and give conservatives such as himself an alternative to Donald Trump in the fall election.
Delegates at the State Republican Convention overwhelmingly passed a resolution opposing Sasse’s call for a third candidate. They argued it would only help Democrats win the White House in November.
Sasse can’t have missed that most Republican primary voters in his state backed Trump last week, and that most of them say they feel excited or optimistic about the prospect of Trump’s winning in the fall. The senator is in the awkward position of being the most consistent and vocal opponent of Trump in Congress while most Republican voters in his state appear to be on Trump’s side. It’s no wonder that he hasn’t been drawing attention to that divide in the last few days. The more that he emphasizes his opposition to the nominee, the more likely he is to antagonize the voters he needs to keep satisfied at home. 63% of Nebraska Republican voters said they felt betrayed by Republican politicians, and Sasse is at risk of becoming one of the politicians they distrust.
The Nebraska exit poll showed something else consistent with what we’ve seen around the country: there simply aren’t very many determined anti-Trump Republican voters. 19% said they would vote for neither Clinton nor Trump, and 6% said they would vote for Clinton, so at best the “third candidate” option that Sasse supports might get a quarter of his own state’s Republican primary electorate behind it. That’s not a lot, but it it might be enough to throw one or two of Nebraska’s Congressional districts to Clinton in the general election. The only thing that a “third candidate” campaign would do in Nebraska is turn the state a little more purple, and unsurprisingly Nebraska Republicans aren’t interested in that.