Three weeks ago, former US Senator Bob Kerrey wrote to supporters in an e-mail that he had given the idea of running again to replace retiring Democrat Ben Nelson “very serious thought and prayer,” but that he had decided not to return to Nebraska for another election effort. According to a Washington Post source, though, that “very serious thought and prayer” must have been mistaken, because Kerrey will run for Nebraska’s open US Senate seat after all:
Former senator Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.) has changed his mind and plans to run for the open Senate seat in Nebraska, according to a senior Democratic aide.
The aide said Kerrey has called Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to inform him of his plans.
Kerrey announced earlier this month that he decided against attempting a return to the Senate, citing his family.
Democrats will go from having no hope at all of holding onto the seat to, er … having almost no hope of holding onto the seat. They wanted Kerrey because he still has some state-wide standing in Nebraska, thanks to his previous years of service and his authentic war-hero status (one of the few living Medal of Honor recipients, from his combat service in Vietnam as a SEAL team leader). He served two terms as Senator and one as governor, which is three more state-wide election wins than any other reasonable alternative for the spot.
However, Kerrey last won an election in Nebraska eighteen years ago, and the landscape has changed considerably in that period. The prairie populism that Kerrey espoused has fallen out of favor, thanks in no small part to people like Ben Nelson, who claimed to represent the mainstream of Nebraskans and then betrayed them once in Washington, especially on the ObamaCare bill. Kerrey spent most of the last twelve years in New York running the leftist New School, and even openly considered a run for New York City mayor in 2005. Nebraskans who wanted to give Nelson the heave-ho for dictating their lives from Washington aren’t going to get terribly enthused over having another native son do the same thing from New York City.
Nebraska has shifted from a competitive state in national elections to deep red in the last twenty years. Nelson became an anachronism, and Kerrey has already been that for almost a dozen years. He might represent the best hope for Democrats in the 2012 Senate race, but that’s a measure of their weakness and not Kerrey’s ability to hold the seat.