Ben Sasse, asked about possible party change: ‘I conceive of myself as an independent conservative’

September 9, 2018

WASHINGTON — Sen. Ben Sasse says he regularly ponders bidding farewell to the Republican Party.

Nebraska’s U.S. senator referred to switching his party affiliation to independent last week as he responded to another user on Twitter.

Then Sasse appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday morning and host Jake Tapper asked him when was the last time he had thought about leaving the GOP.

“I probably think about it every morning when I wake up and I figure out, ‘Why am I flying away from Nebraska to go to D.C. this week, are we going to get real stuff done?’ ” Sasse responded. “So I’m committed to the party of Lincoln and Reagan as long as there’s a chance to reform it.”

Sasse criticized politicians on both sides of the aisle for not focusing on long-term challenges facing the country, from the future of work to the future of warfare.

“I conceive of myself as an independent conservative who caucuses with the Republicans,” Sasse said. “Frankly neither of these parties have a long-term vision for the future of the country.”

It’s not the first time Sasse has floated the idea of abandoning the Republican Party.

During the 2016 presidential election, he appeared on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program and talked about Donald Trump’s campaign for the Republican nomination.

“I hope it happens over the course of the next 30 to 60 days that the Republican Party again becomes the party of Abraham Lincoln, limited government and great human potential,” Sasse said at that time. “I want to celebrate what’s great about America in the Republican Party, but if the Republican Party becomes the party of David Duke, Donald Trump, I’m out.”

Trump went on to win the nomination and the White House. Although Sasse has rebuked the president — sometimes sharply — on issues such as trade and U.S-Russia relations, he has not yet left the party.

Tapper asked Sasse about the possibility that he would run for president in 2020. Sasse did not rule it out but suggested it’s unlikely.

“The odds are a lot higher that I run for the noxious weed control board of Dodge County, Nebraska, than that,” Sasse said.

[Read more: As a frequent critic of Senate, Ben Sasse faces a choice about running again ]

Sasse also appeared Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” where he made similar comments about his relationship to the GOP and reiterated his plague-on-both-your-houses view of the two parties.

The senator was asked about accounts of a chaotic White House that have emerged recently in a new Bob Woodward book and an anonymous opinion piece penned by a senior administration official.

Sasse questioned the wisdom of penning that opinion piece, saying it’s only likely to produce even more paranoia in the West Wing.

But he also said he’d like to see a more orderly policy process in the White House and criticized its nonstop drama.

“I don’t have any desire to beat the president up but it’s pretty clear that this White House is a reality show, soap opera presidency,” Sasse said.

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