Ben Nelson’s decision

Sen. Ben Nelson is walking away instead of being carried out on his shield.

Nelson, a conservative Democrat from Nebraska, announced Tuesday that he will not seek a third term. Since Nebraska has tilted more to the right and to the GOP in recent years, it’s not a surprising decision, even with Nelson’s drift to the right.

I worked for pair of Nebraska newspapers in 2009-2010 and covered Nelson. I attended a public forum he declined to attend and another tightly controlled event where he did show up.

At the outdoor rally, he was widely denounced by insurgents from the fledgling Tea Party movement. At the event he hosted at a community college, people and questions were carefully screened. It was oppressive and revealing.

Nelson, a former insurance company executive who became governor before moving to the Senate, knew he faced an uphill climb in Nebraska, especially after the infamous Cornhusker Compromise, or, Cornhusker Kickback, as some called it in 2009. Nelson tried to make an old-fashioned deal to benefit his state — and his career — and failed on the national stage.

Since Nebraska is more and more conservative, like South Dakota with few promising young Democrats, it seems Nelson’s retirement will add a GOP seat in the Senate.

Is this a choice Sen. Tim Johnson, who is very similar to Nelson in many ways, will make in 2014?