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Bob Kerrey (The Man, Not The Bridge) To Run For Senate

(Updated at 5:57 pm ET)

A day after Senate Democrats' chances of keeping control of the chamber seemed to improve with the news that Maine Republican Olympia Snowe was retiring from a seat Democrats seem likely to gain, they got apparently more good news — Bob Kerrey finally decided to run for the soon-to-be-vacated U.S. Senate seat from Nebraska.

Finally is the key word there because Kerrey had indicated he was considering a run before he indicated that he wouldn't run, only to later signal that he would run for a seat that would return him to the Senate where he served two terms before leaving in 2001.

Kerrey filed paperwork Wednesday to run for the seat now occupied by Sen. Ben Nelson, a Democrat who is retiring.

Before Kerrey's announcement Wednesday, the seat was seen as a highly likely pickup for Senate Republicans, getting them closer to their goal of gaining the four seats needed to take over running the Senate which currently has 51 Democrats, 47 Republicans and two independents.

Democrats hope that Kerrey, who was popular in Nebraska politics before he left the Senate, will still have enough luster to allow them to keep the seat. Kerrey, who was president of the New School in New York City from 2001 to 2010, won the Medal of Honor during the Vietnam War.

Kerry has, fairly or not, been tagged as something of a political Hamlet because of how much he seems to deliberate over some decisions. (The Omaha World-Herald provides a list at the end of a story. The news outlet also has an informative piece on what Kerrey's entry into the Senate race means, especially since others entered the race after he earlier said he wouldn't.)

Kerrey will find a significantly different political climate than the one he left, however. Partisan polarization is even more intense than it was over a decade ago when he left Washington.

And earmarks have become a dirty word if not for lawmakers for many voters, especially in a red, conservative state like Nebraska. While Kerrey doesn't have a bridge to nowhere to his name he does have a bridge bearing his name.

And what a beautiful bridge it is. The Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge, dedicated in 2008, spanning the Missouri River and connecting Omaha, NE to Council Bluffs, IA was mostly funded by a $19 million earmark Kerrey secured in 2000 before he left the Senate.

It doesn't take much imagination to envision the bridge starring in a negative political ad by an opponent or superPAC.

And not all of the opposition will come from political right of center. Some progressives are already putting Kerrey on notice that he isn't their preferred candidate.

From a statement attributed to Progressive Change Campaign Committee co-founder Adam Green:

"Before leaving Nebraska, Bob Kerrey voted to deregulate Wall Street, voted for NAFTA, and voted for the Iraq War. Since leaving Nebraska, he's supported cutting Social Security benefits, raising the retirement age, and lowering corporate tax rates. Kerrey will clearly not be a priority for those looking to support populist candidates in 2012 — and Chuck Hassebrook will likely get a lot of attention."

Hassebrook entered the Senate race and decided not to stand for re-election to the University of Nebraska's Board of Regents when he, like many others, believed Kerrey would not run. After Kerrey made it clear he was in the race, Hassebrook said he would stay in too.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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