Snowe’s retirement, Kerrey’s entrance highlight new optimism in Democrats’ bid to hold Senate
By Associated Press, Published: March 1
WASHINGTON — Back-to-back surprises — Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe is retiring and former Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey is running again — have given Democrats a burst of optimism that they can hold on to control of the Senate, a goal that seemed to be slipping from reach just weeks ago.
The decisions this week by Snowe, a Republican, and Kerrey, a Democrat, put two seats Democrats were prepared to write off in 2012 back into play. Those developments, combined with positive indicators for Democrats like an improving economy and President Barack Obama’s higher standing in polls, have some sensing a shift in the environment.
Former Sen. Bob Kerrey speaks in Omaha, Neb., Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012. Kerrey said Wednesday he will seek the Democratic nomination for the Nebraska seat he once held, reversing course just weeks after publicly rejecting a run he had called a longshot. Kerrey earlier this month opted out of the race to replace retiring Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson, saying that not running was in his and his family’s best interest.
“Things have changed so much that Democrats’ prospects of keeping the Senate are at least 50-50 now, if not better than that,” said Geoff Garin, a Democratic strategist and pollster.
To be sure, Democrats must overcome challenges to compete aggressively in both Maine and Nebraska. Time is running short to recruit a strong Democratic candidate in Maine, and Kerrey will be forced to answer for his years away from Nebraska.
Despite those hurdles, Democrats now see three clear pickup opportunities in 2012, in Maine, Nevada and Massachusetts. Party officials also hope races in Indiana and North Dakota could become competitive. Kerrey, a former governor, two-term senator and presidential candidate, gives Democrats a prominent candidate to put up for a seat they were prepared to concede when Sen. Ben Nelson announced his retirement and Kerrey initially passed on the race.
The overall playing field still favors Republicans, who are defending 10 seats to Democrats’ 23 in 2012.The GOP needs a net gain of four seats to take back control of the Senate. Republicans said a week of positive developments for Democrats doesn’t change the broader picture.
“Republicans have successfully expanded the map in states across the country and we’re well positioned to make gains in November,” said Brian Walsh, a spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, Senate Republicans’ campaign arm.
Democrats’ positive developments also come with plenty of caveats.
Snowe is leaving but who will that hurt? She was known as the most liberal Republican in the Senate and voted as much with the Dems as she did/does with the Republicans. Without her the Dems have one less vote to claim something passed with bipartisan support. Now that she is gone I hope they get someone that will actually back REPUBLICAN policies.