Donald Trump celebrated Ben Sasse’s approaching departure from the Senate as “great news” on his social media platform last week after it was revealed that Sasse would be resigning to return to academia as the new president of the University of Florida.
Sasse is leaving behind a premier national elective office that most politicians absolutely covet with four years still remaining in his second Senate term.
It was a day that exposed the character of both men as Trump hurled insults at Sasse on his social media site.
“I’m excited frankly about the opportunity to step away from politics and onto a team of big-cause, low-ego people who want to build stuff and serve students and plan for the future,” Sasse told the Tampa Bay Times.
Meanwhile, 271 miles south of Gainesville at Mar-a-Lago, the former president continues to plan a return to power while employing an army of lawyers to obstruct or slow-walk a pile of ongoing litigation, including the dispute over his decision to take top-secret documents from the White House and store them in boxes at his resort home.
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Sasse tried to prevent Trump from even happening at the very beginning, traveling to Iowa in 2016 to campaign against him in advance of Iowa’s presidential caucuses.
During the ensuing Trump presidency, Sasse ultimately was formally rebuked by the Nebraska Republican Party for his vote to convict Trump during his second impeachment trial following the 2021 insurrection at the nation’s capitol in Washington.
“Nebraskans don’t think politics should be about the weird worship of one dude,” Sasse said at the time.
By opposing Trump, Sasse became persona non grata in his state party while sticking to his conservative Republican principles and he piled up record victories in his two Senate races, winning all 93 counties in the state both times.
“Something has changed over the last four years,” he said in the wake of his party’s reprimand.
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The choice of Sasse to head the University of Florida adds to a remarkable string of Nebraskans, two of them U.S. senators, who have been chosen to lead universities in three of the nation’s four largest states.
Former Sen. Bob Kerrey moved on to become president of the New School, a private university in New York City.
J.B. Milliken left as president of the University of Nebraska system to become chancellor of the City University of New York (CUNY) system and is now chancellor of the University of Texas system.
Sasse will be in Gainesville on Monday to meet with faculty, university staff and students.
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Some interesting results from late September polling by Data Targeting for the Neilan Strategy Group.
The survey showed Jim Pillen leading Carol Blood by a relatively narrow 48% to 41%, in the gubernatorial race.
Minimum wage increase ballot initiative: 55% support; 34% oppose.
Voter photo identification ballot initiative: 63% support, 31% oppose.
Proposed authorization for medical marijuana: 63% support; 25% oppose.
Perhaps most interesting is the pollster’s assessment that the relatively slim lead that Pillen holds over Blood in this heavily Republican state is the result of a bruising GOP primary election last May.
Pillen is polling only 75% of the Republican vote now.
“If those voters come home, Pillen’s lead will surely increase,” the pollster suggests.
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* Sens. Lindsey Graham and Ted Cruz talked President Trump into his surprising endorsement of Sasse in his 2020 reelection bid, according to Maggie Haberman’s new book, “Confidence Man: The Making of Donald Trump and the Breaking of America.”
* So far, 10 murders in Lincoln this year, once an unthinkable number for our community.
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* The Texas Rangers gave Aaron Judge a fair opportunity to try to break the American League home run record by pitching to him, rather than around him with balls outside the strike zone. Judge connected for No. 62 and the Rangers deserve some credit for giving him a fair chance.
* The wildfire in the storied Sandhills is a Nebraska tragedy.
* Sen. Tom Brewer is planning to head back to Ukraine once again at the end of the week, returning to a battleground that has become even more potentially dangerous with Russia currently in retreat and a desperate Vladimir Putin threatening to let the genie out of the bottle with the use of battlefield nuclear weapons.
* Behold: a two-game Husker winning streak, with both a tough challenge and a great opportunity waiting at Purdue on Saturday night.
Photos: Ben Sasse through the years
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On Twitter @LJSdon