It's a tale of dueling endorsements in the Nebraska U.S. Senate race.
Republican Ben Sasse landed the backing Wednesday of former House Majority Leader Dick Armey of Texas — a few days after a group originally founded by Armey backed former State Treasurer Shane Osborn.
Osborn and Sasse are two of four Republicans seeking the GOP nomination in the May primary. The two have been competing for endorsements from some of the nation's most conservative groups, many of them associated with the Tea Party movement.
On Monday, Osborn fired back with an endorsement from FreedomWorks, a Tea Party-affiliated group that said Osborn had the “courage and conviction” to stand up to the “Washington elite.”
Armey was one of the original founders of FreedomWorks but left after a feud with its president.
The FreedomWorks endorsement made it clear that the group viewed the four-way race as a battle between Sasse and Osborn. In its release, the group took a swipe at Sasse's educational history. Sasse, the president of Midland University, has attended Harvard, Yale and Oxford.
Matt Kibbe, president of FreedomWorks, said: “The Senate does not need more smart people with generally nice sounding ideas, it needs heroes. The time for giant voices and strong principles is now. Shane Osborn has proven himself to be all these things and more.”
Osborn is a former Navy pilot who was hailed as a hero in 2001 when he landed a crippled spy plane in China.
Armey is widely known in conservative circles. He was a leader of the 1994 Republican takeover of the House. Since leaving Congress more than a decade ago, Armey has positioned himself as a leader of the Tea Party movement.
He helped to start FreedomWorks, but left after getting into a fight with Kibbe over the proceeds of a book that Kibbe wrote. Armey argued that Kibbe wrote the book with help from FreedomWorks' staffers and that some of the revenue from the book should be funneled back to the organization.
In his endorsement of Sasse, Armey characterized Sasse as a “conservative outsider” who would “change Washington.”
He also took his own jab at Osborn, who served a single term as state treasurer.
“We don't need career politicians running because this is just the next rung on the ladder for them. I believe most of FreedomWorks members in Nebraska will support Ben Sasse because he is the conservative that best represents their views,” said Armey.
Sasse has never been elected to public office, but he has worked for several years in Washington. He previously served as a chief of staff for Nebraska U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry and held several posts under President George W. Bush, including working as a top Health and Human Services Department adviser.