Larry Sabato is usually a pretty good elections analyst, but his response to Ben Sasse’s appearance on Meet the Press this morning was telling:
Sen. Ben Sasse(R-NE) said on @MeetThePress that he considers himself a conservative independent who is not wedded to the GOP. Another NE R Senator, George Norris, left his party to be re-elected as an Ind. in 1936. Norris endorsed Al Smith & FDR for Prez in earlier years.
— Larry Sabato (@LarrySabato) September 9, 2018
No. Just no.
I’ve profiled George Norris here and you can read it, but in short, Norris was a politician who stood on principle and policy. For much of his career, that was public power. Those principles and policies meant much more to him that party, so he eventually drifted away from the Republicans.
Ben Sasse loves every bill Donald Trump signs. He loves every judge Trump nominates. He loves every regulatory repeal Trump makes. He just doesn’t like Trump’s tweeting.
Ben Sasse may say he is not wedded to the GOP. There is exactly zero evidence of that assertion in his voting record.
What Sasse is clearly doing is seeking to become the next McCain, with three decades of Meet the Press appearances ahead of him. With Flake and Corker retiring and Graham under whatever blackmail Trump and/or Putin have on him to become a total lying hack, Sasse has a clear field for this. But the media doesn’t have to believe him. They can actually question whether a politician’s votes match their rhetoric. They don’t have to have Republican daddies on every week to tone police while pressing for reactionary policies. But they do and they will. At the very least, I hope we can avoid terrible historical analogies.