Breaking: Florida’s Senator Bill Nelson To Leave Democratic Party
by Nathan Empsall, Thu Apr 01, 2010 at 03:03:33 AM EDT
I’ve spent the last couple hours on the phone with friends who work on Capitol Hill, and it sounds like things are pretty set: Bill Nelson, Florida’s senior senator, will announce at a major press conference this afternoon that he is leaving the Democratic Party. It sounds like he won’t join the GOP but will caucus with them as an Independent.
A friend who works for the Senate Committee on Commerce, of which Nelson chairs (for now) a subcommittee, says the Senator is ticked off about what he sees as the partisan behavior of Democratic leaders and is scared that Republicans will win back the Senate this year. Although most political analysts think that’s slightly out of reach of even a GOP wave election, Nelson must not be taking any chances, though this seems an odd way to stay in the majority party.
Florida’s Nelson, unlike the chamber’s other Nelson, has never been known as a right-winger, but he’s no hardcore progressive, either. This is a shock no one saw coming, but maybe we should have. Nelson threatened to sue the DNC in 2008 over the Florida primary/delegates debacle. He calls himself the chamber’s leading expert on NASA, and NASA’s previous big defender on Capitol Hill was one Tom DeLay. He campaigned in 2006 as a bipartisanship figure and was ranked as one of the party’s five most conservative Senators that year (though his score has since increased, perhaps explaining why this move catches everyone off guard).
I, like most Democrats will be, am pissed. This is an outright betrayal of the voters who elected Nelson on the premise that he was a Democrat, and claiming that this will help him keep governing after November 2010 is a real crock. Democrats, especially after the passage of the health bill, have a much better chance this year than many give us credit for. And seriously, how nuts is it for a pro-choicer who voted for the health care bill to join the GOP now, with the Tea Party claiming even Utah’s Bob Bennett is too liberal? Nelson will probably join the Snowe-Collins wing of his new party, and that’s like suicide today. Duh. Having already lost MA-Sen it’s not like this is a big blow to our numbers, but I’m still pissed and confused. It’s betrayal and it’s stupid, pure and simple.
We’ll have more on this as it develops, but for now, I’ve got two concluding thoughts. First, it will be interesting to see what affect, if any, this development will have on Florida’s Senate race. One wonders if Nelson and Charlie Crist will start a third party together? And second, I’m sure Bill Nelson’s a great guy and a good Senator. With apologies to his staff for any heartburn these five paragraphs may have caused them...
Happy April Fool’s Day.