In the Arena

Nelson Switching Parties?

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Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson has been slipping away from the Democratic Party on crucial votes over the past year–and now has decided to vote against Elena Kagan’s nomination to the Supreme Court, which is a major, and rather gratuitous, statement of independence. I suspect that, if the Republicans make substantial gains in the midterm elections, Nelson could be up for grabs next fall–it certainly would be easier for him to get reelected in Nebraska as a Republican and, if the Democrats’ Senate advantage is cut to one or two seats, he could be offered the moon by the Republicans to switch. He could also be offered Cornhusker Kickbacks in perpetuity by the Democrats to stay.

Another possibility: if Charlie Crist wins running as an Independent in Florida, then a three-member Independent caucus–Nelson, Crist and Joe Lieberman–could have the clout to determine which party organizes the Senate. (The fourth Independent, Bernie Sanders of Vermont, claims to be a socialist.)