OMAHA, Neb. — More than a decade after he left this heartland state for New York City, former Sen. Bob Kerrey is considering an improbable comeback run for his old Senate seat, a prospect even he rates as a longshot.
“I would say if you bet ... you’d have to bet against me,” Kerrey told The Associated Press this week. “I’ve been away 11 years. I’m a Democrat. Obama’s going to top the ticket, and he’s probably going to be unpopular. So I’d say the odds are probably not good.”
Since the Senate was founded, only 22 senators have been re-elected to the chamber after a two-term or more gap, according to research by Eric Ostermeier, a research associate at the University of Minnesota, who runs the web site Smart Politics. An even smaller sliver of those, Ostermeier said, have occurred in the “modern era” of political campaigns.
Kerrey, now 68, is not the boyish figure who was elected governor in 1982 and grabbed headlines for briefly dating actress Debra Winger. But Kerrey, Democrats and Republicans seem to agree, is Nebraska Democrats’ only hope of holding onto the Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Ben Nelson, the man who replaced Kerrey when he retired.
How the Nebraska Senate race unfolds is pivotal for both parties: Republicans need to net four seats in the 2012 election to take back the Senate. If Kerrey doesn’t make the race, Republicans are extremely confident they’ll have one of the four seats they need.