President Trump offered an unexpected endorsement Tuesday night of Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), a prominent member of the “Never Trump” faction in 2016 who has since mused about leaving the Republican Party and faces a primary challenge next year.
Ending months of speculation about his plans, Sasse, 47, announced a bid for a second Senate term last week.
During the 2016 election, he said he was unable to support Trump, whom he compared to white supremacist David Duke, and said Trump did not have “any more core principles than a Kardashian marriage,” a reference to a family often derided as “famous for being famous.”
Since Trump took office, Sasse has continued to speak out when he disagrees with the president, although his criticism has been less frequent of late.
Still, Sasse’s campaign seemed surprised by Trump’s endorsement.
“Ben’s grateful for the President’s kind words,” Sasse spokesman James Wegmann said in a statement. “They don’t always see eye to eye, but they’ve built a relationship where they work together when they agree and they wrestle hard when they don’t. That’s a good thing.”
“This underscores what we’ve been saying: Nebraskans are conservative, Ben’s one of the three most conservative senators, and he’s going to win the Nebraska way — with hard work and hustle in each of the state’s 93 counties,” Wegmann added.
Sasse has drawn a primary challenge from Republican activist and businessman Matt Innis, a former chairman of the Lancaster County Republican Party.
“You can’t find anything he’s really accomplished other than bashing the president,” Innis told the Omaha World-Herald after announcing his challenge of Sasse.