The impact of Sen. Ben Nelson’s decision to retire spreads well beyond the borders of Nebraska.
“I’m announcing today that I will not seek re-election,” Nelson announced Tuesday in a YouTube video. “Simply put, it’s time to move on.”
How does that announcement affect efforts by Democrats to retain their majority in the United States Senate?
“I think it makes it very difficult,” John Bresnahan, a writer for Politico, tells Nebraska Radio Network. “Nelson may be the only person who could win this seat.”
Bresnahan broke the retirement story for Politico. Bresnahan says Nelson’s decision disappoints Democratic leadership in Washington, who had urged the two-term senator to stay in the race. He says the numbers tell the story about how difficult it will be for Democrats to retain their United States Senate majority in 2012. Democrats must defend 23 seats in the US Senate, Republicans only 10. At present, Democrats hold 51 seats in the Senate in Washington and Republicans hold 47. There are two Independents, who vote with the Democratic Caucus.
“The probability, with Nelson’s retirement, of Democrats holding on to the Senate just dropped pretty dramatically,” according to Bresnahan.
Bresnahan says Democrats likely will shift their focus to protecting two vulnerable incumbents: Jon Tester of Montana and Claire McCaskill of Missouri. He says the party cannot afford to lose those seats and expect to maintain its majority in the United States Senate.