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Nelson was one of the most vulnerable Democrats in the country, and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee already had invested more than $1 million in hopes of shoring him up before a difficult race.
Democrats say they have a shot, thanks in part to an ugly and crowded GOP primary.
Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman said earlier this month he was being courted by Republicans in Washington and might give a primary bid a second look after initially ruling it out. Three others have been battling one another for the nod: Attorney General Jon Bruning, state Sen. Deb Fischer and state Treasurer Don Stenberg, who has been endorsed by conservative Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.).
Democrats have hinted they will try to recruit former Sen. Bob Kerrey to run. Kerrey, traveling with family in India, did not directly answer a reporter’s question Tuesday 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. But without a candidate officially on deck, the Democrats are in a position to lose this seat in November.
It’s a similar situation to what happened in North Dakota when Sen. Kent Conrad announced his retirement. Roll Call Politics also rates that race Likely Republican.
Republicans need a net gain of four seats next year to take outright control of the Senate. See the race ratings map here.