There is early speculation that Democrats could try to recruit former Sen. Bob Kerrey to run. Kerrey, traveling with family in India, did not directly answer a reporter's question about his intentions. The former Senator told Roll Call in an email that Nelson's retirement "is a very big loss" for Nebraska.
The Omaha World-Herald reported that several Democrats might run, including state Sen. Steve Lathrop and former Lt. Gov. Kim Robak.
Roll Call Politics had rated Nelson's race a Tossup. There is a nasty Republican primary afoot, but with the exception of Kerrey there are few Democrats on the bench to run in Nelson's stead. That means the GOP is likely favored to pick up this seat.
DSCC Chairwoman Patty Murray said in a statement that Democrats believe the contest can "remain competitive" thanks to the GOP primary. "We remain confident that we will hold the majority next year because incumbents have built strong campaign organizations in their states and we've recruited great candidates who are generating enthusiasm around the country," Murray said.
Nelson told supporters instead of seeking a third term he wants to "spend more time with my family" and that he will "look for new ways to serve our state and nation." He said Washington, D.C., should support ideals for the "common good" over the agenda of "radicals" on both the right and the left, and urged politicians to protect the rights of individuals "even if it angers the majority."
"Simply put, it's time to move on," Nelson said in a video making his retirement official this afternoon.