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Without Ben Nelson, can Democrats keep control of Senate in 2012?

The decision by Sen. Ben Nelson (D) of Nebraska not to run for reelection in 2012 is a 'blow' to Democrats' efforts to retain their Senate majority, analysts say. 

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But that vote came at a cost. Senate majority leader Harry Reid kept the Senate in session for 25 days running, in a bid to overcome GOP stalling tactics. Senator Reid made many promises to wavering Democrats to bring them along, and he offered Nelson's home state special treatment to help pay for expanding Medicare coverage – a feature that came to be known as the “Cornhusker kickback.”  

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Under fierce criticism, Nelson often explained that he had not requested special treatment. At Nelson’s urging, the provision was dropped from the final version of the bill. But the criticism stuck and stung.

Nelson is still popular in Nebraska, where previously he had been a two-term governor. But he faced a tough reelection bid from a crowded Republican field that includes state Attorney General Jon Bruning, state Treasurer Don Stenberg, and state Sen. Deb Fischer. Former US Sen. Bob Kerrey (D), who recently stepped down as president of the New School in New York, is a prospect to run in Nelson's stead, but Mr. Kerrey has yet to express interest in the job. Most recently, Kerrey was in the running to head the Motion Picture Association of America.

Democratic Sens. Daniel Akaka of Hawaii, Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, Kent Conrad of North Dakota, Herb Kohl of Wisconsin, Jim Webb of Virginia, and Independent Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut have also announced they will not run for reelection in 2012.

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