Sen. Ben Nelson has announced he will retire from public office.
Nelson’s campaign confirmed the senator’s decision with the release of a written statement and a video announcing his decision.
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 for 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.
The announcement confirmed stories which swirled in Washington about Nelson’s decision. Politico first reported that Nelson would retire after two terms in the United States Senate, which it stated would deal a serious blow to Democratic efforts to hold onto the majority in the Senate.
“This is a critical, critical race for Democrats,” Politico writer John Bresnahan tells Nebraska Radio Network. “And with Nelson leaving it’s going to be tough for them to hold on to the Senate.”
Brenahan says Nelson’s vote for the federal health care overhaul and for the $787 billion economic stimulus package damaged his population back home and made his re-election prospects more difficult. Recent public opinion polling had shown improvement in Nelson’s scores that took a nosedive after casting a key vote for the health care law that has been very unpopular in Nebraska.
“It was going to be a tough race for him,” Bresnahan says. “His vote in support of the Democratic health care bill, the Cornhusker Kickback, that whole controversy, his support of the stimulus package in 2009, $787 billion stimulus package. That had hurt his standing back home which he’d spent years trying to carve out this kind of centrist path.”
The Nelson announcement ends a bruising, expensive United States Senate race as it just got underway. Though never an official candidate, Nelson, 70, had run advertising indicating he would run for a third term. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spent over $1 million on their own ad blitz to bolster his image, according to Politico. The money flowed to Nelson, in part, in gratitude for his support of those contentious issues and to indicate that national leaders would back a decision to run for re-election. Conservative groups countered with advertising of their own, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars against Nelson, most focusing on that controversial role in helping President Obama win approval of the federal health care overhaul.
Nelson has amassed more than $3 million in campaign cash. Top Democratic leadership in Washington had been asking Nelson to stay in the race, pointing to improving poll numbers.