If Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse plans on coming back to Iowa, he may want to plan a detour on a different route than the usual I-80 one. Republican Pottawattamie County chair Jeff Jorgensen declared today that the neighbor-state senator should stay far away from his county, home to Council Bluffs.
“LET ME MAKE THIS AS CLEAR AS I CAN,” Jorgensen wrote in all-caps on his personal Facebook page this morning. “NEBRASKA SENATOR BEN SASSE IS NOT WELCOME IN POTTAWATTAMIE COUNTY, NOR WILL HE EVER BE INVITED TO SPEAK TO POTTAWATTAMIE COUNTY REPUBLICANS!”
In the Facebook post, Jorgensen also shared a U.S. News and World Report story entitled “Ben Sasse’s Big Iowa Tease,” which detailed the Republican senator’s visit to Ames and Des Moines late last week. Sasse was here to follow up on a bet he made over the winner of a Cornhuskers/Hawkeyes football game last year, and he attended a Story County Republicans fundraiser before driving an Uber while wearing Hawkeye gear.
Trips like Sasse’s are rather common in Iowa, where elected officials from around the country – and especially neighboring states – come to help out local parties, with the added benefit of getting extra press thanks to Iowa’s place in the primary calendar.
The visit became mired in controversy, however, after Republican Party of Iowa state chair Jeff Kaufmann went on a blistering tirade against Sasse before a Donald Trump rally in Cedar Rapids last month. Kaufmann laid into Sasse, who he called an “arrogant academic,” for not being more supportive of the Republican president, and he suggested Sasse “stay on your side of the Missouri River.” Sasse was highly critical of Trump during the primaries, but has largely avoided direct criticism of Trump since the 2016 victory. That entire ordeal led many political observers to question whether there was any room for honest dissent in the Iowa Republican Party.
That attitude now appears to have seeped down into the local ranks of Republican leaders.
“I endorsed no one during the primary,” Jorgensen wrote in a comment on his post after others became critical of it. “Once Trump became the nominee of our party, he became my guy. Now as President, he needs all of us to do our part and support him and his conservative agenda. I have NO time for distractors.”
There’s some speculation that Sasse might run for president after Trump’s time in office. The harsh, ongoing reactions to his opinions during last year’s primary could complicate that some in the lead-off state of Iowa, or it could create backlash to certain Iowa Republican leaders that endears some caucus-goers to Sasse. But Pottawattamie County should be Sasse’s natural jumping off point into Iowa, considering it’s in the Omaha media market and Council Bluffs is right across the river. He’ll have to deal with Jorgensen at some point and those who agree with him.
by Pat Rynard
Photo via Gage Skidmore