The Campaign Spot

Why Conservatives Have Well-Founded Doubts About Sid Dinsdale

From the Tuesday edition of the Morning Jolt:

Why Conservatives Have Well-Founded Doubts About Sid Dinsdale

Nebraska Republicans pick their Senate and gubernatorial nominees today; a lot of conservatives outside the state will be watching the Senate primary results closely.

To a lot of grassroots conservatives, President Obama and his allies are about as bad as it gets. They’ve managed to steer the country pretty darn far down the wrong path in the past five-and-a-half years. They’re wildly ambitious, shamefully arrogant, politically ruthless and dangerously close to, as President Obama put it (perhaps by accident) “fundamentally transforming the United States of America.”

To many of America’s apolitical folk, the fury of the conservative grassroots is a bewildering, not-quite-rational, discomfort-inducing overreaction – or at least it was. But the evidence is starting to pile up, and Obama’s approval rating continues to slide and sputter.

Obama and his allies will promise the moon –  “If you like your plan, you can keep your plan!” – and then deliver the opposite, and then shrug off the complaints as naysayers. If a part of a law becomes politically inconvenient, they’ll ignore it.

They’ll talk about the need for open government and then be more secretive than any preceding administration. They’ll talk about the need for clean government and then go to unprecedented lengths to reward donors.

They’re just flat-out nasty. IRS abuses. Lying to the American public about the cause of the Benghazi attack. Presiding over an out-of-control NSA that makes a mockery of the Fourth Amendment. Attempting – and perhaps succeeding – in intimidating Supreme Court justices. They do what they want and attack anyone who stands in their way. “Don’t think we’re not keeping score, brother.”

This is why a lot of Republicans aren’t interested in a deal with President Obama on immigration. They simply don’t trust him to keep his end of the bargain once the bill is signed into law. They’re not willing to go along with any Obama plan that requires GOP concessions now in exchange for Obama concessions later.

This conservative grassroots distrust developed early – “All statements from Barack Obama come with an expiration date, all of them” and so the backlash against Republicans who sought to make a deal with Obama came early and furiously: Arlen Specter. Charlie Crist. Dick Lugar.

Now there’s Sid Dinsdale. He may not deserve a spot alongside Specter and Crist, but there’s some past evidence to suggest that Dinsdale’s willing to make a deal with the administration. If an article from American Banker from December 2010 is correct, Dinsdale’s bank helped persuade Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, a Democrat, to sign on to the Dodd-Frank financial regulation bill. (The law’s a mess, and only about half its regulations have been written, four years after its passage.) The president of the bank said at the time that because Congress was certain to pass a banking regulation bill, they preferred to have a hand in shaping it rather than fighting it every step of the way.  For what it’s worth, Dinsdale denies personally lobbying Nelson. However, a lot of conservatives have a hard time believing that Dinsdale’s bank would expend much effort lobbying for a policy result he strongly opposed.

The Omaha World-Herald, endorsing Dinsdale, stated he was a “pragmatist” and saluted his willingness to reach out to the other side of the aisle. Yes, that’s precisely what a lot of conservatives fear; sometimes no deal is better than a bad deal.

Apparently Dinsdale has a shot at winning today:

Sasse remains the favorite, but strategists in the Cornhusker State say Dinsdale has a chance to pull the upset thanks in part to staying off the airwaves and out of the fray until the race’s final weeks—a decision that kept him out of the crosshairs of his opponents. Sasse’s campaign has targeted him more aggressively of late, redirecting fire that it (and Sasse’s outside allies) had previously aimed at Osborn. Most of the advertising in play this past week has been either for or against Dinsdale.

In a state with notoriously fickle voting habits, Dinsdale is betting his late-breaking, local campaign will appeal to a plurality.

“Nebraskans know the Dinsdales from the community bank franchises and their agribusinesses,” said Dinsdale campaign strategist Sam Fischer (who is also a nephew of the state’s junior U.S. senator). He pointed to Pinnacle Bank locations across the state as being known for their community involvement, from banking to supporting local Little Leagues.  

Dinsdale’s campaign is also putting his father’s household name to use, featuring Roy Dinsdale in some of the campaign ads.

Young said that kind of Main Street messaging is what resonates with Nebraskans, not outside ads.

“It’s a small enough state, you can win a campaign with grassroots here,” Young said. “There’s a lot of other means of messaging that carry weight.”

NR’s enthusiasm for Sasse is clear. If Dinsdale wins the primary tonight, he would be the heavy favorite in November; if elected, he would still be a Nebraska Republican and he would probably vote the right way most of the time. But there would still be that nagging doubt that he might want to reach a deal with an administration that so many conservatives find impossible to trust.

The man is behind the bank, and the bank is behind the man.

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