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NU president opening stirs Sasse speculation

March 26, 2019

Speculation as to whether Sen. Ben Sasse might be a prospect for University of Nebraska president began to creep across online communications and into state Capitol conversation on Tuesday, suggesting the potential for a political bombshell.

But Sasse has not indicated any interest in the position and James Wegmann, the senator’s communications director in Washington, said Sasse would make no comment about the speculation.

The conjecture was largely grounded in Sasse’s academic background.

Prior to his election to the Senate in 2014, Sasse was president of Midland University in Fremont.

His academic credentials include teaching experience at the University of Texas in Austin and his own education at Harvard University, St. John’s College, Yale University and the University of Oxford.

Sasse is also the author of two recent books.

Sasse was quick to praise the University of Nebraska in a statement on Monday that saluted President Hank Bounds for his leadership in the wake of the announcement that Bounds would be stepping down as president.

“We’re a small state, but our university already punches way above its weight and we have the potential to be one of the greatest university systems in the nation,” Sasse said in the written statement.

Despite this week’s speculation, Sasse has given no indication that he is not on course to seeking re-election in 2020, although he has said that decision will not be made until sometime this summer when he and his wife, Melissa, sit down to discuss their future.

In the meantime, he has been raising money to be ready for a potential re-election campaign and the prospect of any big-name Republican primary opposition appears to have faded away.

Sasse recently gained appointment to a seat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, a position he sought and clearly prizes.

If Sasse ultimately decided to seek the University of Nebraska presidency and if he was chosen by the Board of Regents, that would upend the political landscape in Nebraska, leading to appointment of a new U.S. senator by Gov. Pete Ricketts to complete Sasse’s term and a wide-open contest in 2020.

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