TIME Donald Trump

Watch Donald Trump’s Most Outrageous Moments

He's said a lot more than just "you're fired"

It seems that every time Donald Trump opens his mouth, a maelstrom of controversial words come out — and things have only got worse as he’s begun his presidential campaign.

From his comments about “rapist” immigrants to his attack against John McCain, Trump has many Americans in uproar over his fighting words. He may or may not make it very far in the 2016 presidential election, but one thing’s for certain: it’s going to one heck of a show.

Watch his most controversial and outrageous statements in the video above.

TIME Hillary Clinton

Iowa Activists Are More Than ‘Ready for Hillary’

Hillary Clinton And NYC's First Lady Announce Childhood Dev'pt Initiative
Andrew Burton—Getty Images Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton attends a round table conversation and press conference announcing a childhood development initiative with first lady of New York City Chirlane McCray on April 1, 2015 in New York City.

Frustration is brewing among some liberal Iowa activists

Iowa liberals are getting restless waiting for Hillary Clinton to kick off her campaign.

While Republican presidential hopefuls are already holding town hall meetings and rallies in the first-in-the-nation caucus state, the presumptive Democratic frontrunner hasn’t visited since October, though she’s expected to announce by the middle of this month.

For many Democrats in Iowa, the quiet brings back bad memories of 2007, when Clinton ran a tepid operation and ended up losing to Barack Obama.

“There’s still some frustration that Hillary Clinton didn’t really have an Iowa strategy back in 2007, and we don’t quite understand that,” says Gerene Denning, Democratic fundraising chair for Johnson County, the bluest county in Iowa.

Some Iowa Democrats are bewildered by Clinton’s absence in the state so far this year. “The question is, do we not matter to her?” Denning says. “Is Clinton’s strategy, ‘Never mind Iowa’?”

In 2007, Clinton’s difficulty connecting with Iowa voters and reaching out with the same tenacity as then-Sen. Obama ended up spelling defeat, as she came in third, behind Obama and former Sen. John Edwards. The loss ended up setting in motion a slugfest that ultimately cost her the nomination.

The emerging Clinton campaign is determined not to repeat that mistake. Last week, Clinton staffers Robby Mook and Marlon Marshall went to Iowa on a listening tour, speaking with top Democrats and organizers in Des Moines, Cedar Rapids and Iowa City. Clinton has also tapped Matt Paul, a top Democratic advisor with close ties to the Hawkeye state, as the manager of her likely Iowa campaign. She is expected to visit Iowa shortly after she launches her campaign—likely by April 15—and has laid out plans for a competitive ground operation.

Still there are signs that some Iowa activists are annoyed with Clinton’s approach so far.

“She needs to get out here and set up shop, now. If the Democrats’ plan is, ‘Hey, Hillary, here’s the stage,’ they’re going to fail,” says Hugh Espey, executive director of the progressive Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, which has around 3,300 dues-paying members. “It’s time to suit up and get in the game.”

Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley has been in the state extensively over the last few weeks and campaigned for Iowa Democrats in the 2014 midterms. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont visited the state in February, while former Sen. Jim Webb is touring restaurants, museums and local community centers in Des Moines and other towns in Iowa later this week.

Clinton visited Iowa in September for the steak fry hosted by former Sen. Tom Harkin, and then later in October to campaign for Rep. Bruce Braley. But progressives in Iowa who are considering supporting Clinton are noting her absence this year.

“Since she hasn’t declared, and we don’t know her stance, it’s hard to say if she’s got support,” said Sue Dinsdale, executive director of Iowa Citizen Action Network. “Here we are in April and we have no declared candidates on the Democratic side.”

Since the current primary system began in 1972, Iowa voters have gotten used to a quadrennial parade of presidential candidates, who spend months buttering up Iowa caucus-goers in their dining rooms and coffee shops. Clinton’s appeal among Iowa caucus voters depends in large part on the enthusiasm she can muster among Hawkeye activists, who will arrange living room meetings, diner visits, and informal get-togethers with state residents. If she can win their support, she will gain a big advantage in Iowa.

Activists also hope to push Clinton to the left and aren’t afraid to flex their political muscles. “We need to hear Hillary speaking on how she’s going to stand up to Wall Street and the big banks,” says Larry Hodgden, Democratic chair in Cedar County, a rural area between Cedar Rapids and the Quad Cities. “If she doesn’t move to the left and really convince us she’s going to be a little more progressive, she cannot win the caucus in Iowa.”

Obama was a tenacious Iowa campaigner eight years ago, engaging in the retail politics and living room pitches that won him the state. Neila Seaman, of the Sierra Club in Iowa, says an Obama campaign staffer asked her daughter what he could do to win her support. Seaman’s daughter jokingly requested that he do a cartwheel in the middle of the street. The Obama staffer did it, Seaman says.

Presidential candidates who don’t participate in the cyclical Iowa courtship are taking a serious risk.

“The people in Iowa expect to see the candidates on the ground in Iowa, driving through cornfields. They expect a personal interaction,” says David Andersen, assistant professor of political science at Iowa State University. “You cannot as candidate sit back and wait until two months before campaign to begin. You have to be on the ground early.”

Still, 2016 isn’t 2008, and Clinton is in a much stronger position now than she was eight years ago. The most recent poll, taken at the end of February, shows Clinton far ahead of the field with support from 61% of likely Iowa Democratic Caucus participants. Thus far, she has no strong challengers, despite the visits by O’Malley and Sanders. Activists say they see her as sharp, capable and experienced. They want to see her answer tough questions about her views and compete in a tough Iowa contest. “Iowa Democrats are ready to see the same activity that the Republicans are seeing,” says Ben Foecke, executive director of the Iowa Democratic Party. “They want to see a robust primary season, beginning with our caucuses in February.”

This year, Clinton will reportedly focus on the intimate events Iowans want after she launches her campaign, rather than big speeches and large rallies, intending to put her in close contact with voters in states. Clinton aides have said the campaign will focus much more on listening to voters and involving caucus-goers, instead of the narrative of experience and inevitability touted in the last cycle. It’s a strategy partially aimed at winning over voters in early caucus states like Iowa and New Hampshire.

Dale Todd, a local activist, met with Mook, Marshall and other Clinton supporters in Bruegger’s, a bagel shop in Coralville last week during their tour of the state. Todd says he was an Obama supporter in 2008 and is approaching 2015 with an open mind.

“The campaign that is going to be the most successful is the one interested in developing authentic relationship with Iowans,” says Todd. “The Clinton campaign is serious, and my gut tells me they are trying to do it the right way.”

“But if they come in thinking they know everything, Iowans will smack them down,” he said.

 

TIME Morning Must Reads

Morning Must Reads: June 25

Capitol
Mark Wilson—Getty Images The early morning sun rises behind the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC.

In the news: Iraqi premier refuses calls to form broader government; U.S. sanctions on Russia could be delayed; Sen. Thad Cochran wins Mississippi primary; Rep. Charlie Rangel in the lead

  • “Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki refused Wednesday to bend to international appeals to form a more broad-based government to curb the country’s swelling Sunni Muslim insurgency.” [WSJ]
    • “Iran is flying unarmed surveillance drones over Iraq from an airfield in Baghdad and is secretly supplying Iraq with tons of military equipment, supplies and other assistance, American officials said. Tehran has also deployed a unit there to intercept communications…” [NYT]
  • “Sanctions aimed at key economic sectors in Russia because of its threatening moves in Ukraine might be delayed because of positive signals from Russian President Vladimir Putin…” [AP]
  • “Sen. Thad Cochran narrowly won Mississippi’s Republican primary election Tuesday, prevailing over a Tea Party challenger in a hard-fought runoff vote that was seen as a proxy for the intramural fight between the GOP establishment and conservative insurgents.” [TIME]
    • “After trailing the lesser known McDaniel in the June 3 primary, Cochran, in three weeks time, managed to: a) grow the electorate in his favor by, among other things, recruiting African Americans to his cause b) run successfully on a message of keeping his seniority in Washington and c) win despite, quite clearly, being the less naturally skilled candidate on the stump.” [WashPost]
  • “New York Democratic Rep. Charlie Rangel held a slim lead in a primary race against state Sen. Adriano Espaillat early Wednesday, as the longtime incumbent looked for a victory that would give him what he’s said will be one last term in Congress.” [TIME]
  • Boehner Planning House Lawsuit Against Obama Executive Actions [Roll Call]
  • “The Obama administration cleared the way for the first exports of unrefined American oil in nearly four decades, allowing energy companies to start chipping away at the longtime ban on selling U.S. oil abroad.” [WSJ]
TIME Morning Must Reads

Morning Must Reads: June 24

Capitol
Mark Wilson—Getty Images The early morning sun rises behind the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC.

In the news: Kerry in Iraq; Ex-Im debate ranges amid new investigation; primary Tuesday; Bionic future beckons

  • “U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry held crisis talks with leaders of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region on Tuesday urging them to stand with Baghdad in the face of a Sunni insurgent onslaught that threatens to dismember the country.” [Reuters]
    • “What’s not debatable are the echoes of Saigon in both Baghdad and Kabul. The final U.S. troops in Vietnam headed for home in 1973. Two years later, the North Vietnamese pressed south toward the capital of Saigon, from where Nguyen Van Thieu ruled.” [TIME]
  • “The U.S. Export-Import Bank has suspended or removed four officials in recent months amid investigations into allegations of gifts and kickbacks, as well as attempts to steer federal contracts to favored companies…” [WSJ]
    • House Majority Leader-Elect Puts Ex-Im Bank in Jeopardy [TIME]
  • “The number of children caught crossing the Mexican border without an adult has jumped tenfold and is overwhelming officials charged with caring for them in federal custody.” [Hill]
  • “As the tumultuous fight for Sen. Thad Cochran’s seat in Washington hurtles toward a close on Tuesday, this bitter reality has started to dawn on Republicans here: The larger battle for power within the Mississippi Republican coalition is only just beginning.” [Politico]
    • “If Charles Rangel is going to get pushed out of Congress, it won’t be without a dance.” [Politico]
  • “Investigations into the Christie administration and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey have zeroed in on possible securities law violations stemming from a $1.8 billion road repair agreement in 2011…” [NYT]
  • Science fiction come true: Moving a paralyzed hand with the power of thought [WashPost]
TIME 2014 Election

Primaries Pit Parties’ Old Guard Against New

Thad Cochran Primary Election
Joe Ellis—AP U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Mississippi, greets supporters at a pre-election day rally at the Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum in Jackson, Miss., on June 2, 2014.

The headlines scream of surreptitious videos, nasty intramural spats and Silicon Valley influence peddlers. But among the eight states holding primary elections on Tuesday, the two marquee contests can be distilled to a simple choice: whether Republican and Democratic primary voters decide to jettison the old guard for a taste of the future.

In Mississippi’s Republican Senate primary, incumbent Thad Cochran’s seat is the Tea Party’s best remaining shot this year to topple an incumbent. A six-term incumbent with a patrician’s manner and a taste for pork-barrel spending, Cochran, 76, can seem like a relic of a different era. He has served Mississippi in the Senate since the Carter administration, and his skill at securing federal dollars for this cash-strapped state is borne out by the facilities across it that bear his name. He has said he doesn’t “really know a lot” about the Tea Party movement that has been shaking up the GOP for five years running now.

In normal times, Cochran’s earmarking prowess and Washington clout might have made him a model senator. This year it makes him big game for RINO-hunting groups across the GOP’s right wing. And if Cochran is an icon of the party’s past, his insurgent challenger is an emblem of the party’s new regime. Chris McDaniel, a 41-year-old state senator, disdains earmarks and has skirted some questions about whether he would have voted for a relief bill that ameliorated the damages of Hurricane Katrina. He presents himself as a pure conservative, and makes clear that he would eschew the federal dollars on which Cochran—the ranking member on the Senate appropriations committee—has partially staked his re-election. “I’m not going to do anything for you,” McDaniel told a local audience recently. “I’m going to get the government off your back, then I’m gonna let you do it for yourself.”

While the personalities and the politics are different, the juxtaposition between old and new is equally stark in Tuesday’s primary in California’s 17th Congressional District. Since 2001, the Bay Area region has been represented by Democrat Mike Honda. Like Cochran, Honda is a popular septuagenarian with support from his party’s traditional base. As such, he also became the target of a hostile takeover attempt from a group that may represent the party’s next generation.

The 17th district encompasses swaths of Silicon Valley, and tech titans like Sean Parker, Marissa Mayer and Sheryl Sandberg have plowed cash into the campaign account of a challenger they hope will better represent the industry’s interests. That candidate, 37-year-old Ro Khanna, has drafted some of the same bundlers and data whizzes who powered President Barack Obama to reelection. An Ivy league-educated intellectual property lawyer, Khanna is the kind of centrist technocrat that Silicon Valley—and the Democratic Party that increasingly relies on its largesse—has come to prize.

Honda has the edge in name recognition, the support of labor unions and a long record that resonates in the district. But if Khanna survives Tuesday’s “jungle” primary—in which the top two vote-getters regardless of party move to the general election—he could prove a disruptive political force come November.

TIME Congress

Washington’s Oldest Congressman Loses Runoff Election

Congressman Ralph Hall smiles during a tour of his home in Rockwall, Tx, May 27, 2014.
LM Otero—AP Congressman Ralph Hall smiles during a tour of his home in Rockwall, Texas, May 27, 2014.

Texas Rep. Ralph Hall, 91, was defeated by Republican primary challenger John Ratcliffe on Tuesday

The oldest elected politician in Washington lost a runoff election in a Republican primary Tuesday night.

Texas Rep. Ralph Hall, 91, was ousted by 48-year-old John Ratcliffe, who emphasized the importance of new leadership after Hall’s 34 years in office, the Associated Press report.

Ratcliffe, a former U.S. attorney backed by several national conservative organizations, won the election in the Texas’ 4th Congressional District, which is in the northeastern region of the state, CNN reports.

No Democratic candidate is running in the district, which means Ratcliffe’s primary victory will send him to Washington.

Hall won his first congressional seat during Jimmy Carter’s presidency in 1980. He was a member of the Democratic Party until 2004, when he switched to the GOP. He is the only World War II veteran in Congress who was seeking re-election.

During the party’s March primary, Hall claimed 45 percent of the vote while Ratcliffe finished second with 28 percent, leading to the run-off. Hall had said that his 18th term would have been his last, had he been elected.

[AP]

TIME The Brief

GOP Rolls Tea Party in Primaries

Welcome to #theBrief, the four stories to know about right now—from the editors of TIME

Here are the stories TIME is watching this Wednesday, May 21:

  • Establishment Republicans came out on top of GOP primaries after three of five states pass over Tea Party candidates to re-elect incumbents.
  • The Supreme Court stayed what would have been the nation’s first lethal injection after Oklahoma’s botched execution in late April.
  • Iranian officials arrest 6 young people for posting a dancing tribute video of Pharrell’s song “Happy” to YouTube called “Happy in Tehran.
  • Thanks to late storms and lingering cold, Aspen opens its ski slopes for Memorial Day weekend.

The Brief is published daily on weekdays.

TIME The Brief

Thailand Denies Military Coup

Welcome to #theBrief, the four stories to know about right now—from the editors of TIME

Here are the stories TIME is watching this Tuesday, May 20:

  • Big money fuels a mini Super Tuesday for Republicans with primary elections in Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky, Oregon and Pennsylvania.
  • Thailand institutes martial law, but insists there has been no military coup.
  • Fans clamor for Jay-Z and Beyonce to really make a film for their tour’s faux movie teaser ‘Run.’
  • Led Zeppelin gets sued for possibly plagiarizing the opening notes of “Stairway to Heaven” from the Spirit song “Taurus.”

The Brief is published daily on weekdays.

TIME 2014 Election

California’s New Jungle Primary System

Mike Honda
Jose Luis Magana—AP Liberal lion Mike Honda in D.C., where he has support from the Democratic establishment. He has served seven terms in Congress but faces challenges from within his own party

All bets are off in California's congressional races as multiple candidates from the same party face off

“I’m Guessing,” says Dan Schnur, who is running for California secretary of state, “that not many of you lie awake at night wondering what the next California secretary of state will do.” There is laughter from the crowd of maybe 30 voters. And you, too, dear readers–especially those of you who don’t even live in California–may be wondering why a candidate for a decidedly obscure political office is worthy of your attention.

Well, part of it is that Dan Schnur is an interesting guy, a longtime consultant to moderate Republicans like Arnold Schwarzenegger and John McCain. But he isn’t a Republican anymore. He’s running as an Independent. “I’m in favor of marriage equality and lower taxes,” he begins. “I’m tough on crime and pro-choice. I’m for immigration reform and for using test scores as a valuable measure of students’ progress. Yes, the reason that I’m running as an Independent is that neither party will have me.”

But that’s not exactly accurate. He’s running as an Independent because there were two political reforms enacted during Schwarzenegger’s time as governor of California. They were below the radar but startling, the sort of reforms that are near impossible because incumbent politicians usually block them–but they were passed by public referendum and initiative in 2010, and Schnur was one of those at the heart of the campaign to get them enacted.

The reforms are ingeniously simple. There is no more gerrymandering in California, no more congressional or state legislative districts tailored to the needs of the incumbents or the majority political party. District lines are now drawn by an independent commission to reflect actual community borders. (The commissioners are forbidden by law from knowing where the incumbents live.) Second, primaries are now multipartisan: the top two vote getters, regardless of party affiliation, face off against each other in the general election. Schnur co-chaired the Voices of Reform project on redistricting. “I wasn’t too involved in the top-two primary reform,” he says. “I didn’t think it would make much difference … but I’ve learned: this could be enormous.” Schnur and his colleagues may have actually created an electoral system that favors centrists rather than politicians who play to their party’s base. On June 3, California will go to the polls in what politicos have taken to calling the Jungle Primary.

California’s Fourth Congressional District is a perfect primer for the curiosities of the Jungle. Tom McClintock, 57, is the three-term incumbent and has long prided himself on his “constitutionalist” orneriness. He is, in other words, a Tea Party Republican. His district, in the Central Valley and foothills, is very conservative but perhaps not as extreme as McClintock is. He is, for example, in favor of amnesty for Edward Snowden, the NSA leaker, because Snowden helped expose the criminal proclivities of the federal government and “I’d rather have him home talking to us than over there talking to the Russians.”

At a well-attended Saturday-afternoon meeting in the town of Mariposa, near the entrance to Yosemite National Park, McClintock endorsed a candidate for county supervisor and then addressed the crowd, many of whom wore cowboy hats and sported some elaborate facial hair. They were all het up over the federal government and the “left-wing environmentalists,” as McClintock described them, calling the federal tune in Yosemite. Some of their complaints sounded reasonable: a local toad was about to be labeled “threatened,” which would further limit the local water supply (there’s been a terrible drought in California)–but the toads were dying out, according to the locals, because the feds had stocked the lakes with trout, which ate the tadpoles. The feds were also proposing to close down stables and rafting businesses along the Yosemite waterways.

McClintock is a smart politician who knows the issues, knows what his constituents care about and can make it seem as if he’s as angry as they are. He takes lonely–his opponents say obstructionist–stands against the various agencies of the Department of the Interior. He “speaks truth to power,” as he told the folks in Mariposa. In the past, he didn’t have many electoral cares; the Democrats have never had much of a chance in either the old or new Fourth District. But now McClintock has to worry about Art Moore, who is also a Republican.

Moore, 36, is a razor-sharp recent combat veteran, an Army major returned to his hometown of Roseville, the most populous community in the Fourth District. He is a graduate of West Point who served tours in both Iraq and Kuwait. He is also, however, a stone-cold neophyte who hasn’t really been to political boot camp yet. He is, he says, “a conservative,” and he checks the appropriate boxes on most conservative issues, like Obamacare–but he also is “a bit more libertarian” than McClintock on social issues like gay marriage and abortion. Most important, though, is his style: he’s the opposite of McClintock’s lone gunslinger. “You’ve got to sit down and negotiate with those you don’t agree with,” he says. “[McClintock] has a perfect conservative voting record, but what has he got done? He voted to shut down the federal government–to close Yosemite–which really hurt this district. I’m in favor of building coalitions and seeing if we can make some progress on the issues.”

Moore admits that he would not have run under the old system. McClintock has the party base locked up and the power of incumbency. But if Moore can make it into the general election against McClintock, he may be able to access independent and moderate Democratic voters as well as his brand of conservative Republicans. “In the Jungle Primary, everybody has to run to the center,” says Fred Keeley, a former state rep from Santa Cruz who co-chaired the Voices of Reform project with Schnur, “because that’s where the votes are.”

McClintock claims not to be worried about Moore. He tells me that his “most substantial opponent” in the Fourth District is an Independent named Jeffrey Gerlach. It’s a lovely tactic to pretend that Moore doesn’t matter and a sign that uniprimary politics can get pretty interesting: a Republican opponent like Moore, who might appeal to moderates in November, when more people are paying attention, is McClintock’s worst nightmare in the Jungle.

Indeed, across the state in Silicon Valley, there has been an outbreak of electoral weirdness in the 17th Congressional District–which, in some ways, is a mirror image of the race in the Fourth: Mike Honda, a traditional labor liberal, is opposed by a more moderate Democratic newcomer named Ro Khanna. Khanna, 37, is an Indian American, an intellectual-property lawyer who worked in Barack Obama’s Commerce Department and has close ties to the President. He has also reportedly raised $3.7 million–far more than Honda–from Silicon Valley tech titans, who are just beginning to flex their political muscles (much as Hollywood did during the Vietnam War). Khanna is an impressive candidate, fluent on every issue and, in some cases, downright courageous: he is willing to challenge the public-employee unions–all of which support Honda–on issues like accountability and pension reform. Most of the major newspapers in the district have endorsed Khanna.

But the 17th District also has a semiplausible third candidate–a Republican named Dr. Vanila Singh, 43, a young and attractive professor of anesthesiology at Stanford University Medical School. Singh is a neophyte and can seem foggy on the issues, but she has positioned herself cleverly–she’s another social liberal, and she’s willing to negotiate with the Democrats about the Affordable Care Act. In fact, since about 25% of the district votes Republican, she might pose a credible primary threat to Khanna, the Democratic moderate. And so, after she declared her candidacy, there was a sudden flowering of old-style urban ward politics in and around San Jose. Suddenly, Singh had two Republican challengers–one named, confusingly enough, Vanish Singh Rathore (who was eliminated from the ballot because the signatures on his petitions were not remotely plausible); the other, Joel Vanlandingham, offered petitions that included signatures from Khanna supporters.

Khanna denies any hand in this. “I would have to be pretty stupid to get involved in that sort of thing,” he says. “I mean, Vanlandingham was really tough on me in the League of Women Voters debate.”

There are some who say that the Jungle will cause of lot of rumbling but no real results. “The rubber meets the road when the moderates go to Congress,” says Samuel Popkin of the University of California at San Diego. “The evidence suggests they stick with the party line.” The evidence is skimpy, though–just the 2012 election, when the Jungle was brand-new and most politicians weren’t completely aware of its possibilities yet. Some felt the traditional pull of partisan loyalty and chose not to challenge their party’s stalwarts.

Khanna was one such in 2012, when he chose not to challenge the venerable Representative Pete Stark, a devoted liberal and the only admitted atheist in the House. Another young Democrat, Eric Swalwell, made that race and beat Stark, which sent a signal throughout the state that the Jungle was open for business: you could challenge incumbents of your own party and maybe even win.

Honda seems a bit mystified by all that has happened. His is a classic American story. He spent part of his youth imprisoned in a Japanese-American internment camp in Colorado during World War II. He was inspired, not embittered, by the experience. He became a teacher and then a school principal, then commenced a public life that culminated in seven terms in Congress. His campaign office is in a Service Employees International Union hall. He greets me wearing jeans and cowboy boots and a red, white and blue Democratic donkey tie.

He sees his career as many incumbents do: a list of local projects funded, of ideological battles fought–in his case, the relentless pursuit of social justice and civil rights. He remembers helping get a nanotechnology bill passed in 2003 at the behest of Silicon Valley, but now the techno-wizards have abandoned him in favor of Khanna. “I’m an orchardist,” he says. “That nanotechnology bill planted the seeds for the trees that are bearing the fruit in Silicon Valley now. But I guess no one remembers those who plant the trees.”

It is hard not to have sympathy for Honda, but the political orchard he and his generation planted was poisoned over time by partisanship and paralysis, and now it has been replaced by a jungle. We’ll see what sorts of glorious fruits and subtle poisons the Jungle brings forth.


This appears in the May 26, 2014 issue of TIME.
TIME 2014 Election

Nebraska Senate Race Bridges Republican Divide

Nebraska Election Ben Sasse, Shane Osborn, Sid Dinsdale
Nati Harnik—AP This combo picture contains photos of Nebraska Senate candidates in the May 13, 2014 primary election. From left: Ben Sasse, Shane Osborn, Sid Dinsdale.

Both the frontrunners may fall in Nebraska, one of 2014's most competitive GOP primaries

The most interesting Republican primary of 2014 culminates Tuesday night in tiny Nebraska, where three candidates have a shot at winning a race that upends every tidy narrative about the party’s divisions.

Until recently, the contest to succeed retiring GOP Sen. Mike Johanns seemed like a two-man race between Ben Sasse and Shane Osborn. Sasse was cast as the Tea Party candidate after winning endorsements from a raft of national conservative groups and major elected officials. Osborn, a former Navy pilot and state treasurer, has support from influential party figures linked to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. As a result, the race has often been framed as a battle between the party’s Tea Party and establishment factions.

The reality is more complicated.

Tea Party groups are desperate for a Sasse victory. The movement’s chosen candidates are struggling to gain traction in a spate of high-profile races this year, and the youthful president of Nebraska’s Midland University might be the best chance for national groups like the Senate Conservatives Fund to score a win. But this is not your typical proxy fight between the GOP’s grassroots and grandees.

Some Nebraska conservatives actually prefer Osborn. Many of the same establishment strategists vying to squash Tea Party candidates elsewhere love Sasse. And while Sasse has worn the Tea Party mantle and cut soft ads emphasizing his Nebraska roots, his resume includes a stint in the Bush Administration and posts at Yale, Oxford and McKinsey. The national support for Sasse’s candidacy actually seems to have made Nebraskans suspicious. “That does rile a few people,” Faron Hines, an activist with the York County Tea Party, told TIME recently, after the conservative group FreedomWorks revoked its endorsement for Osborn and gave it to Sasse. “Who is he going to represent when he gets to Washington?”

Enter Sid Dinsdale. The snowy-haired president of a local bank has lagged behind Sasse and Osborn for months. But as the frontrunners trained their fire on each other, Dinsdale quietly consolidated support. Polls suggest a late surge. National groups like the Club for Growth were concerned enough to go up on air with ads blasting Dinsdale, suggesting that Sasse—one of the few candidates this year who bridges the party’s internal divides—could lose.

For proof that such an upset is possible, one need only look to the state’s junior Republican senator. In 2012, Deb Fischer pulled off an upset victory in a crowded Republican primary, coming from behind in the race’s final weeks in a race against two well-funded statewide officials. As the better-known frontrunners battered one another, Fischer slipped between them and sprinted to victory.

Dinsdale has tried to replicate that path. While he may lack Fischer’s folksy appeal to the state’s conservative base, he was able to pump $1 million of his own fortune into the race, enough to fund plenty of TV ads in a state with cheap media markets and less than two million people. The banker also drew a coveted endorsement from the Omaha World-Herald. “As Nebraska as they come,” the paper declared, in a pointed jab at the out-of-state money and muscle marshaled by his opponents.

All these swirling factors portend an exciting finish for one of the year’s best primary contests.

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