Marking perhaps the first time in his career that Sen. Ben Nelson actually followed his contituents wishes, the Senator confirmed today that he will not be seeking re-election in 2012. Leaving the race changes the dynamic considerably in Nebraska. All but the most cockeyed of optimists acknowledged that Sen. Nelson faced a very difficult campaign ahead, owing primarily to his behavior in the ObamaCare scandal that came to be known as the “Cornhusker Kickback.”
Nelson cast the 60th and deciding vote to enable passage of the ObamaCare legislation, and in return he received a special provision regarding Nebraska and Medicare/Medicaid. This was a promise, written into the legislation, that assured Nebraska that they would pay no additional Medicare or Medicaid costs due to the bill. OF course, that would mean that all the other states would have to pick up Nebraska’s share of the tab, not to mention turning our state into a government health care mecca for the indigent. To top it off, the sleaziness of it truly embarassed our state, previously known for pragmatism and reasoned solutions to complex problems.
The jury isn’t in yet, but I would venture a guess that even after the Democrat National Committee illegally spent more than a million dollars on supposed “issue ads” that all featured the Senator and all barely mentioned any issues other than the worthiness of Senator Nelson for another term, internal polling must have suggested that his reputation was beyond salvageable in this state. Greed, appearing to be the better part of Senator Nelson’s character, led him to decide to take his ample campaign warchest and depart with it intact, rather than depleting those funds in a no-win campaign.
My dealings with the Senator have been less than cordial, and frankly, only one other scenario would, to me, have been preferable to his retirement; that being for him to have exhausted every penny of his campaign and personal fortune in a losing effort before slinking away toward whatever cushy lobbying position Obama and his supporters promised the Senator in exchange for his betrayal of his constituents clear wishes. Don’t get me wrong, I’m tickled he is running away from this fight, but admittedly, a part of me wanted to see him soundly defeated in an electoral fashion. Oh well.
The next few weeks will be interesting in our state politics as Dem wannabe’s jostle for position in hopes of their party’s nomination. How many guesses would you like to have as to whether any of them seek the endorsement of the outgoing officeholder? Nelson’s touch would be the kiss of death for any candidate, so it will prove rather tricky for the Democrats to muster a candidate with enough name recognition to win, while at the same time having few ties to the incumbent. Democrats in this state have been licking Ben’s boots for many years now. I look forward to watching the tap dancing and stammering when their ties to Ben are explored and repeated by the Republican candidate.
Speaking of Republican candidates, who does this news most benefit among the opposition? Bruning, the sitting Attorney General? Stenberg, the veteran candidate and current State Treasurer? Or perhaps this turn of events will prove to be carrot-enough to lure Governor Dave Heineman into the race, despite his prior refusals? The answers will come quickly, as campaigns tend to rise and fall rapidly in the wake of a titanic shift in electoral dynamics, magnified by the fact of Nebraska’s relatively small population.
In the end, Sen. Nelson got more than he deserved; he is retiring, rather than losing. He is walking away on his terms, not ours. But in the end, perhaps this is the most fitting result for a man prone to wriggling through the truth, side-stepping integrity in service to his ambition. He isn’t a winner, nor is he technically a loser. He simply isn’t anything at all. And that’s just fine with me.