Let’s file away this Charlie Cook nugget for 2012:
Should the Senate end up with a 9-seat net gain for Republicans, or even eight, there will be immediate speculation about what Sens. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., and Joe Lieberman, I/D-Conn., do. Both are up for re-election in 2012 and neither is likely to be oblivious to the fact that Democrats have twice as many seats at risk in 2012 and 2014 as Republicans. Whether the GOP captures a Senate majority this year or not, the odds are pretty good that they will have one in either two or four years. That kind of exposure is enormously important, particularly given the rarefied circumstances in which Democrats won some of those seats in 2006 and 2008.
For Nelson, who turns 70 next year, it’s hard to say what would be more difficult: seeking re-election in 2012 as a Democrat or winning a GOP primary.
This year, the party establishments had a tough time protecting party-switchers or iconoclasts in primaries. Just ask Sens. Arlen Specter, D-Pa., Robert Bennett, R-Utah, and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska.
If Nelson decides to run for re-election, he might opt to do so as an independent. Personally, I think retirement sounds pretty good. I hear he has a nice fishing and hunting cabin, which sounds particularly inviting given the war zone that the Senate has become. For Lieberman, he might have just found his sweet spot, running as an independent and sitting with whichever party is most hospitable. [italics mine]
There’s one thing Democrats, Republicans, and independents in Connecticut agree on: they want this to be Joe Lieberman’s last term in the US Senate. Only 24% of voters in the state say they would vote to reelect Lieberman in 2012 to 66% who say they will vote to replace him. Majorities of Democrats (72%), independents (63%), and Republicans (61%) alike say it’s time to swap out Lieberman for someone new.
If that’s Charlie’s definition of a “sweet spot”, keep me away from his candy dish. Unless all of Ben Nelson’s grey matter has been crushed under the weight of his ridiculous toupee, he won’t be switching parties. It’s an act of sheer desperation that works once, if you’re lucky.