Five days before the Nebraska Republican Senate primary, outside groups are beginning to train their sights on self-funding banker Sid Dinsdale, who has run third in the polls.
Dinsdale faces Midland University President Ben Sasse and former state Treasurer Shane Osborn in the May 13 primary in this safe Republican seat; the winner of the GOP primary will likely be the next senator from Nebraska.
A TV ad released Thursday by the Club for Growth, which is backing Sasse, attacks Dinsdale for being too liberal, saying he donated money to Democrats and said the Affordable Care Act had some "good aspects."
"That's really liberal," the narrator says. "That's the real Sid Dinsdale."
The six-figure ad buy will run statewide, according to a club spokesman.
The Senate race has largely been a battle between the front-runners, Osborn and Sasse. until recently. In the final weeks before the primary, the ad war has gotten nastier, with a number of outside groups coming to help their respective candidates. Dinsdale has gone mostly unnoticed, and has not been mentioned in ads.
But in the final week there appears to be some concern that if Osborn and Sasse cut each other down, Dinsdale could come out unscathed and win the primary — the way now-Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., did in the 2012 primary. The Madison Project, a tea-party-aligned group backing Sasse, began running a radio ad attacking Dinsdale on Wednesday.
There could be reason for concern. A Sasse campaign internal poll conducted at the end of April found Dinsdale surging forward. Sasse led with 31 percent, followed by Osborn at 25 percent and Dinsdale at 22 percent. A poll conducted earlier in April for Tea Party Express, which is backing Sasse, had Dinsdale a distant third at 13 percent, suggesting he might be seeing a surge.
The winner is all but certain to be elected in November. The race is rated Safe Republican by the Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call.
Correction 3:53 p.m.
An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated Osborn's level of support in the Sasse campaign's internal poll.