The Corner

Elections

Sasse Won’t Endorse Trump (Or Anyone Else) in 2020

Sen. Ben Sasse (right) during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in 2017. (Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters)

Last month, President Trump gave Nebraska GOP senator Ben Sasse his “Complete and Total Endorsement!” In an interview with National Review, Sasse says he won’t endorse Trump or any other candidate in 2020 so he can focus on his own race, but he is “supporting the Republican ticket.” It’s not entirely clear what “supporting the Republican ticket” means:

Surely the president wouldn’t have endorsed Sasse unless Sasse had promised to endorse the president in 2020?

No, Sasse tells me, he won’t be endorsing Trump or any other candidate in 2020.

“I’m not endorsing anyone in any race,” he says.

Our conversation moves on to other topics, including why Sasse, who often seems frustrated and bored with his job, even wants a second term (more on that in a minute). But as he gets up to leave at the end of our interview, I want to be sure I heard him correctly that he will not endorse any candidate in any race between now and November 2020. “That’s correct,” he says.

“The only asterisk I’d put on that is the socialism point I’m making,” Sasse adds. He begins talking about how Omaha’s Republican congressman, Don Bacon, is running against an “actual socialist” and he’ll be helping Bacon’s campaign.

“I’m running against the Democrats’ crazy turn toward socialism. But, as a matter of formal endorsements—I mean, I’m working to support the Republican ticket, period. But I’m not endorsing candidates in individual races.”

Wait, Sasse is supporting but not endorsing candidates?

Does supporting the Republican ticket mean supporting Trump in 2020? “All of the turn toward socialism is disastrous,” Sasse replies.

So does Sasse support Trump-Pence in 2020?

“I’m supporting the Republican ticket.”

Up and down the ticket, including the presidential race?

“I’m supporting the Republican ticket,” he replies. “See ya, dude.”

Sasse’s comments leave me confused….

In 2016, Sasse cast his vote in the presidential race for Mike Pence, not Donald Trump. Did that count as “supporting the Republican ticket”?

During a follow-up phone interview on September 30, I ask Sasse whether he has decided he will vote for Donald Trump (presuming Trump is renominated in 2020) or he might vote for Pence again, as he did in 2016. But Sasse still won’t directly answer the question. “I think that leaving it at supporting the Republican ticket is the right place for me to be,” he says.

“I plan to do some work for the Republican ticket down the road. Focused on my race right now and really not talking about anybody else.”

Efforts to get Sasse to talk about why he didn’t vote for Trump in 2016 and whether his assessment of the president has changed don’t prove very successful, either. Sasse says he is “really grateful for the fact that the president has completely kept his word” about judicial nominees, and that Elizabeth Warren’s socialism and majoritarian politics “would completely baffle the Founders.”

“I think I’ve said almost everything that I can say about Donald Trump,” Sasse says.

You can read the whole thing in the latest issue.

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