(All images from Wikimedia Commons, unless otherwise noted)
I anticipate a remix of the wailing and lamentations I saw on Twitter last year, when Nelson announced he wouldn't be running for the seat.
Concern is warranted. Democrats are defending 23 seats this year. Republicans are only defending 10 . A loss of 7 of those flips control of the Senate to the Republicans. And if you thought these assholes were an impediment to public policy when they were a minority...
well, I lack a tasteful metephor. But a tasteless metaphor might involve the term "impaction".
Of all the Democratic seats at risk however, this one always seemed like the toughest to hold. Nebraska is 86 % white, 90 % Christian, and has a 14 % registration advantage for the Republicans. Looking at this realistically, holding Nebraska's Senate seat is damned near impossible, and our best case scenario for 2012 may be to eke out a single electoral vote from their weird apportionment scheme.
This is why Ben Nelson isn't running, of course. And it's why Kerrey, who recently bought property in the state, has decided to pass.
Nebraska is too big a lift for a DSCC with 22 more winnable races to defend, it's too big a lift for bundlers with more viable candidates desperate for their dollars, it's too big a lift for a White House distracted by its own election issues in this most lilly of white states.
Which makes it perfect for low stakes gambling.
In the 2008 presidential election, 63 % of Nebraska's electorate turned out to vote. They were and are largely white Republicans. Confronted with an untenable path to victory given the likely electorate, the obvious strategy in Nebraska must be to expand the "scope of conflict" . We need a GOTV effort aimed at habitual non-voters, and a candidate who can mobilize them. Running a younger, less blatantly cynical version of Ben Nelson isn't going to cut it; if Ben Nelson could win that seat, he'd be running for it.
I will not pretend to have done an extensive demographic analysis of Nebraska non-voters. But my suspicion is that they might be mobilized around issues of class, economic justice and income inequality.
(image from KVNO news)
A fire-breathing progressive, in the school of Robert La Follete or Teddy Roosevelt might well be more successful in mobilizing habitual non-voters than another drab establishment Democrat, whose public policy stands are indistinguishable from those of a Republican.
And it is worth noting here...
the purpose of politics is to make good public policy, not to win elections. No policy can be made if you don't win elections. But elections that undermine good policy, don't do the country any good, either. The lackluster, timid career of Ben Nelson detracted from the benefits that health care reform, the stimulus and filibuster reform have and will provide to the American people.