The race for control of the Senate just got even more interesting with word from several news outlets that Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) won't be seeking re-election in 2012.
The Omaha World-Herald says "it's good news for Republicans, but incredibly bad for Democrats who need the equivalent of a Christmas miracle to keep the seat."
Politico calls it "a serious blow to Democratic efforts to hold on to their majority in the chamber next November."
The Washington Post says "it was not clear who might replace Nelson on the Democratic side, as Democrats' bench in Nebraska is pretty thin. But former senator Bob Kerrey has been mentioned and would instantly give his party a fighting chance in a state where Obama took just 42 percent of the vote."
Right now, there are 51 Democrats in the Senate plus two independents who caucus with that party. The other 47 seats are filled by Republicans.
According to The Hill, "Democrats are defending 23 Senate seats to the Republicans' 10 in next year's election, and the GOP needs a net gain of four seats (if President Obama wins reelection) to take control of the upper chamber. Nelson is the seventh member of the Democratic Caucus to announce his retirement. His retirement also means Republicans can shift resources elsewhere and spend more targeting other vulnerable Senate Democrats this cycle, including Sens. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.)."
Nelson. 70, is a former governor of Nebraska. He was first elected to the Senate in 2000.
Update at 3:40 p.m. ET. Ben Nelson Makes It Official:
"Simply put, it's time to move on," Sen. Ben Nelson said while announcing his retirement in video he released on YouTube.
"While I relish the opportunity to undertake the work that lies ahead," Nelson added, "I also feel it's time for me to step away from elective office, spend more time with my family and look for new ways to serve our state and nation."