Sen. Ben Nelson heading for the exit


Two-term Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE) has opted not to go for a third – the 70-year old conservative Democrat from one of the nation’s reddest states will call it a career at the end of his current term. The decision makes the congressional calculus that much trickier for an already-challenged Democratic Party.

Republicans have been lining up for the opportunity to challenge Nelson for his seat next year, and still more may yet come forth. In fact, Democrats are hoping for a particularly combative Republican contest while they regroup and search for a viable candidate.

Nelson was already believed to be on the bubble for re-election – a recent RBR-TVBR study of upcoming senatorial races found that three different prognosticators rated the state a toss-up. But the lack of an incumbent on the Democratic side in a state that tilts strongly to the Republican side will almost certainly shift ratings away from the donkeys and toward the elephants.

Nelson stated, “There is much more that needs to be done to keep America strong. And while I relish the opportunity to undertake the work that lies ahead, I also feel it’s time for me to step away from elective office, spend more time with my family, and look or new ways to serve our state and nation. Therefore, I am announcing today that I will not seek reelection. Simply put: It is time to move on. I encourage those who will follow in my footsteps to look for common ground and to work together in bipartisan ways to do what’s best for the country, not just one political party.”

RBR-TVBR observation: Nelson is not one of the legislators who are particularly active in communications legislation. The biggest impact his retirement will likely have on broadcasters is the influence it will have on which party gets to hold the gavel in committee meetings and on the floor of the full Senate.