Tea Party Express Names Sen. Ben Nelson As A 'Top Target'

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

FILE - In this April 28, 2010 file photo, Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb. answers reporters' questions on Capitol Hill in Washington. Americans say they don't like partisan gridlock in Washington. But they are voting in ways almost certain to increase it, by punishing politicians who cooperate with the opposing party and rewarding ideological purity that pushes both parties to the left and right fringes.

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.