Republicans and Democrats agree: U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., can raise money if he needs it.
Sasse has repeatedly said he doesn’t plan to make a decision on whether to seek re-election in 2020 until this summer.
And his latest campaign finance report, filed Thursday, shows no sign of a decision at this point. As of Dec. 31, he’s raised $1.5 million and has about $1.4 million in the bank.
That’s a far cry from the $6.7 million he raised in 2014 when he was a little-known university president who overcame three major primary candidates and sailed to victory in the general election.
Now as a sitting senator, Sasse plans to raise $6 million altogether if he does decide to return to the Senate, said Tyler Grassmeyer, Sasse’s 2014 campaign manager.
“That kind of firepower combined with one of the most conservative records in the U.S. Senate puts Ben Sasse in a very strong position for 2020,” Grassmeyer said.
He added that Sasse is “just now ramping up” his 2020 fundraising efforts.
“He’s a fundraising machine,” Grassmeyer said.
Sasse’s re-election decision is a major open question mark for Nebraska’s 2020 political landscape.
If Sasse steps down, there’d be a wide-open Republican primary, and similar races have drawn three or more top-tier candidates.
“I’m certain that we’d have an outstanding candidate that would run — and probably several,” said Nebraska GOP Chairman Dan Welch. Welch said, however, that he expects Sasse to seek re-election.
Sasse has made a name for himself by criticizing President Donald Trump, which has spurred speculation that the president might support a primary challenger for the Nebraska senator.
But fellow Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts says it won’t be him, and no other high-profile Republicans have emerged as a likely challenger.
For their part, Democrats already have one candidate: Chris Janicek, an Omahan who unsuccessfully ran for the Democratic Senate nomination in 2018.
Nebraska Democratic Party Chairwoman Jane Kleeb said other Democrats might jump in as well.
She noted that some progressives around the country like Sasse’s anti-Trump stance. But Kleeb said Nebraska Democrats “see right through him.” She said his votes don’t reflect that criticism of the president.
She also questioned whether another Republican might rise to challenge him.
“I think Sasse has a very difficult path forward in the state,” she said. “But money would not be his problem.”
Sasse also has a political action committee, Sensible American Solutions Supporting Everyone PAC, which had about $250,000 in the bank at the end of 2018.
Grassmeyer said Sasse’s committee “has been and will continue actively bolstering Nebraska Republicans.”
About Sasse’s fundraising prospects, Republican consultant and former party leader Chris Peterson said: “There’s no doubt that when he is ready to fund raise in earnest for 2020, Sen. Sasse will be able to raise what he needs.”