Ben Nelson Retiring – Progressives Cheer, But Will Dems Lose The Senate?
Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) has become emblematic of the grand illusion of Democratic control. Nelson is a Democrat and in the first two years of the Obama administration, his vote was theoretically the difference between a bill passing and a bill not passing, if the bill actually made it that far thanks to unprecedented filibustering.
That’s My Congress rates Ben Nelson at a 15 out of 100 on liberal political issues, tied with Mary Landrieu (D-LA) for the worst Senate Democrat and tied with or below some Republicans. He even rates below Joe Lieberman (I-CT).
On most progressive values, Nelson’s voting record has been atrocious.
- He is anti-choice
- He voted to ban same-sex marriage
- He has an 86% pro-business voting record, including voting to allow companies to continue to off-shore jobs
- He is for stricter drug laws
- He supports the death penalty
- His voting record is primarily anti-environment
- He’s rated 83% by the conservative Christian Coalition
- He’s for the Patriot Act
- He’s votes for dog-whistle immigration policies, including voting for border fences, English as the official language legislation and against immigration reform
- He voted against raising taxes on millionaires and for the repeal of capital gains taxes and estate taxes while voting against middle class tax breaks for college tuition
- He’s a hawk
On the other hand…he’s a Democrat. In a political climate where being a Republican means saying ‘no’ to absolutely every piece of legislation and every nomination offered by the Democratic party, each and every possible vote can be precious. Nebraska is a very conservative state. If a Republican is elected, his or her loyalty will almost assuredly be to the Republican party to the exclusion of all else.
Nelson has sometimes been there when absolutely needed, like in the passage of healthcare reform, although it would have arguably been a better bill without him. However, his vote was necessary in its passage.
With Nelson leaving, Democrats are almost assured of losing Nebraska and potentially the majority in the Senate. For that reason, Senate Democrats, like Harry Reid (D-NV) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) have been trying to get Nelson to stay.
In 2012, there are 23 Democratic Senate seats up for grab and only 10 Republican. Republicans need a gain of four seats to regain control of the Senate.
According to Politico, Five additional Democrats, including, Claire McCaskill (MO), Sherrod Brown (OH), Bill Nelson (FL), John Tester, (MT) and Bob Casey (PN) are potentially in trouble. Only one Republican seat, Scott Brown (MA) looks like it could go to the Democrats.
The Democrats’ best chance for maintaining Nelson’s seat is if former Senator, Bob Kerrey was to run again. He has apparently been in talks with Democrats.
Reuters breaks things down a little differently, putting Hawaii, with retiring Democratic Senator Daniel Akaka into play, along with Virginia (Jim Webb, D retiring), Montana (Jon Tester, D), Massachusetts (Scott Brown, R), Missouri (Claire McCaskill, D), North Dakota (Kent Conrad, R, retiring), Nevada (Dean Heller, R), New Mexico (Jeff Bingham, D, retiring) and Wisconsin (Herb Kohl, D, retiring).