Sen. Ben Nelson's office is pushing back against a bit of juicy speculation that the Nebraska Democrat would be willing to switch parties if Republicans take control of the Senate in the 2010 elections.
On Saturday, Time magazine's Joe Klein wrote that "if the Republicans make substantial gains in the midterm elections, Nelson could be up for grabs next fall--it certainly would be easier for him to get reelected in Nebraska as a Republican and, if the Democrats' Senate advantage is cut to one or two seats, he could be offered the moon by the Republicans to switch."
Klein's offering appeared to be complete speculation but it set off a bit of chatter around the web.
Asked for comment, however, Nelson's office stressed that the senator remains a committed Democrat who, despite bucking the party on a host of political fronts (most recently, Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan's confirmation), is not interested in a party switch.
"Every year, Congressional Quarterly's vote study confirms Ben Nelson's bipartisanship and independence," said spokesman Jake Thompson. "He's a Democrat who has cast tough votes, is honored to represent all Nebraskans and will never be, as one blogger has suggested, 'up for grabs.'"
This is, of course, the conventional rejoinder for any politician rumored to be open to switching parties. Most recently, Florida Governor Charlie Crist insisted for months that he was running for the Senate as a Republican before finally switching to an Independent. Nelson isn't up for re-election until 2012, so while his poor polling numbers in Nebraska may be enough to spur conjecture about his future affiliation, the time frame for such a decision is well into the future.
UPDATE: Thompson emailed the Huffington Post shortly after this story went up to clarify even further that Nelson plans to remain a Democrat. The re-issued statement is as follows:
Every year, Congressional Quarterly's vote study confirms Ben Nelson's bipartisanship and independence. He's has cast tough votes, is honored to represent all Nebraskans and will never be, as one blogger has suggested, "up for grabs." Senator Nelson plans to remain a registered Democrat and an independent voice for Nebraska.