Bob Kerrey has decided to visit with Nebraskans next week before reaching a final decision on whether to step into the 2012 Senate race.
Kerrey, who served in the Senate from 1989 to 2001 after a single term as governor, will be in the state assessing reaction to his possible re-entry into Nebraska's political life after a decade in New York City where he was president of New School University.
Kerrey was not a candidate for a third Senate term in 2000.
A number of friends and close political associates said Friday they believe Kerrey is inclined to seek the Senate seat that will be vacated by Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson at the end of the year.
Kerrey, a Democrat, considered a Senate bid in 2008 when Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel decided not to seek re-election. But Kerrey ultimately decided not to enter that race.
Meanwhile, state Sen. Steve Lathrop of Omaha said Friday he's considering a possible bid for Nelson's Senate seat, but has reached no decision.
Kerrey and Lathrop are in the top tier of candidates Nebraska Democrats would like to attract in the wake of Nelson's decision not to bid for a third term this year.
"Some people have talked to me about it," Lathrop confirmed in a telephone interview. "There have been no decisions and no commitments."
Lathrop, who was first elected to the Legislature in 2006, is chairman of the Business and Labor Committee. He led negotiations that eventually produced a compromise reform of the Commission of Industrial Relations last year.
Earlier, Lathrop spearheaded legislative reform of the Beatrice State Developmental Center.
Lathrop has been widely viewed as a possible gubernatorial candidate in 2014.
The current wish list of Democratic Senate candidates includes Kerrey, Lathrop, former Lt. Gov. Kim Robak and University of Nebraska Regent Chuck Hassebrook of Lyons.
Earlier, Lincoln Mayor Chris Beutler brushed aside consideration of his name.
In other Senate race developments, South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint's political action committee launched a $210,000 TV ad campaign in Nebraska supporting State Treasurer Don Stenberg's bid for the Republican Senate nomination.
The 30-second ads, paid for by the Senate Conservatives Fund, will air statewide through Jan. 23.
DeMint's PAC has raised $263,000 to support Stenberg's campaign.
Meanwhile, Stenberg renewed his request for a minimum of six Republican Senate debates.
So far, only one debate -- April 11 in Norfolk -- is on the calendar.
In a related political development, state Sen. Tony Fulton of Lincoln said he will not consider a bid for the 1st District Republican congressional nomination if Rep. Jeff Fortenberry should decide to enter the GOP Senate race.
Fulton had been on a long list of possible Republican contenders.