Tea Party Express names Sen. Ben Nelson as a 'top target'
February 9th, 2011
08:32 PM ET
11 years ago

Tea Party Express names Sen. Ben Nelson as a 'top target'

Washington (CNN) – The Tea Party Express is hyping, what it calls, "exclusive news": that the group has placed another name on its list of political targets.

On Wednesday, Sal Russo - chief strategist of the Tea Party Express - distributed an email to supporters.

It states that the group is "pleased to tip you...to the exclusive news that we will be making another Democrat, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, one of our top targets for defeat in these upcoming 2012 elections."

"Nelson traded his principles, our freedoms & liberties, and the quality of our nation's healthcare system–all for $100 million for Nebraska," the email states. "Nelson is a Democrat elected in a conservative 'Red State' and he seemed to think he could buy off votes for his re-election."

The charge goes back to last year's heated battle over health care reform -and pertains to a potential perk for Nebraska.

To help secure Nelson's vote for the health care package, the bill included a $100 million Medicaid exception for Nebraska. Republicans dubbed it the "Cornhusker Kickback," a phrase that includes the name of Nebraska college sports teams.

What the Tea Party Express email does not explain is that the $100 million Medicaid exception was removed from the health care bill.

There is also no mention of Nelson's displays of fiscal conservatism.

During the health care debate, Nelson was among some in his party who spoke out against certain costs. And during debate over the economic stimulus plan, Nelson was concerned about substantial amounts of money that, he felt, didn't belong in the bill.

Jake Thompson – Nelson's communications director – would not specifically comment on the news that Tea Party activists would work to oust the senator. Nor would he address the criticism.

"Sen. Nelson is focused on 2011," Thompson said. "He's not focused on the 2012 election. He's focused on what he can do this year."

Eric Schultz is the communications director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Instead of blasting the targeting of Nelson, Schultz suggested it might help Democrats hold the Nebraska seat.

"We saw the Tea Party take down eight establishment Republican candidates last cycle. And they selected the least electable candidates in each of them," Schultz said.

CNN's Ed Hornick contributed to this report.

Follow Shannon Travis on Twitter: @ShanTravisCNN

Filed under: 2012 • Ben Nelson • Tea Party Express
soundoff (19 Responses)
  1. CaveAdsum

    I am certainly not a member of any of the various iterations of the Tea Party; but Ben Nelson embodies the corruption and bribery that were an integral part of last year's debate on the healthcare law. I only hope they can find someone to run against him that shows a modicum of common sense, rather than that unelectable numbskull, Sharron Angle who ran in my home state of Nevada.

    February 9, 2011 09:10 pm at 9:10 pm |
  2. Indy

    So the Tea Party is the new Political Mafia ? They sure have a wimpy name for a power that can dictate who stays and who gos in Washington, but then again that Koch money gos a long long way to create a corporate run house.

    February 9, 2011 09:16 pm at 9:16 pm |
  3. The Real Tom Paine

    Who will they get that's more conservative than Nelson? The Dems will vote for him to stop the Tea Party, and a lot of GOP members don't like outsiders promoting unelectable candidates. Let's see what Sharon Angle/Christine O'Donnell-Light fool they will pick: a member of the Flat-Earth Society, maybe?

    Can't wait to see, this will be fun.

    February 9, 2011 09:31 pm at 9:31 pm |
  4. Robert

    So the GOP, which claims to be "pro-life" wants to make sure that any baby born to a person who can't afford health insurance will get no medical care. How hypocritical. Kudos to Mr. Nelson for taking the moral high road.

    February 9, 2011 09:33 pm at 9:33 pm |
  5. Peter s

    Experience the power of information from Ted Turner, Time Warner and last but not least the TEA....

    February 9, 2011 09:42 pm at 9:42 pm |
  6. Daniel

    Note to Ben Nelson: Your fence-straddling got you nowhere. You would have been better off being a real Democrat. Ask Blanche of Arkansas.

    February 9, 2011 09:53 pm at 9:53 pm |
  7. Terry P

    Well, they had better get some qualified people to run this time, because the last election had some pretty poor offerings. We need GOOD people in DC, if they will agree to run. Personally, I think the good people are so sick of DC they don't want any part of the system.

    February 9, 2011 09:57 pm at 9:57 pm |
  8. Haydn

    Oh gee, instead of getting anything done for the good of the country between now and 2012 , more importance is placed on ousting oponents who might actually do their job with what they have to work with. Did we expect anything else after the last election? I think not. So tell me, where is the change we were promised.

    February 9, 2011 10:31 pm at 10:31 pm |
  9. John Ventura, CA

    While his huge bribe was taken away his vote still stands. Interesting how that works isn't it.

    February 9, 2011 10:34 pm at 10:34 pm |
  10. lovestar

    Why does there have to be any TARGETS. Let that gentleman do his job. The "Tea Party" has gone 'Nuts.

    February 9, 2011 10:53 pm at 10:53 pm |
  11. once upon a horse

    this guy is as big a DINO as you can get and it perplexes me why the Tea Party would even target him. Unless he is replaced by a REAL Democrat I doubt if he'll be missed.

    February 9, 2011 11:10 pm at 11:10 pm |
  12. Derrick, Orange County

    Go for it. He's useless anyways and always votes or talks like a Republicant.

    February 9, 2011 11:19 pm at 11:19 pm |
  13. 66Biker

    More deception from the Party of No. So what else is new?

    February 9, 2011 11:26 pm at 11:26 pm |
  14. duke

    What the Tea Party Express email does not explain is that the $100 million Medicaid exception was removed from the health care bill.

    February 9, 2011 11:45 pm at 11:45 pm |
  15. Larry

    I don't know anything about him, but I like him.

    February 10, 2011 12:32 am at 12:32 am |
  16. A

    Looks like we are back to "targets" again with the Tea Party. Business as usual.

    February 10, 2011 12:39 am at 12:39 am |
  17. chris

    I am so tired of the Tea Party. It is nothing more than a total extreme "Right" wing Conservative party!! It reminds of when the Nazi started In Germany they played to people emotions during hard times to get what they wanted. But we all know how that group ended up, I just hope the Tea Party experience the same fate!!

    February 10, 2011 07:59 am at 7:59 am |
  18. Rob R

    I don't know why they are targeting Nelson – he is practically a Republican. I don't think there was a Democratic senator who was more disruptive to the health care process than Nelson. Has he even voted for ANYTHING that the Dems pushed forward? I mean, he voted for health care ONLY after he got his Nebraska kickback and then voted against it after it was taken away.

    I've never really considered him a Democrat anyway, so if he loses, not a big deal.

    February 10, 2011 08:08 am at 8:08 am |
  19. Jay

    I'm a Democrat. But I seriously do hope they defeat this guy. We need true Democrats to bear the banner. Not selfinterested liars. I think this guy deserves to lose for holding out on the health care vote in the way he did.

    February 10, 2011 08:23 am at 8:23 am |