Gov. Dave Heineman said Tuesday he will do everything in his power to make sure a Republican is elected to the U.S. Senate in Nebraska next year.
But, he said, there are already several Republican candidates who could beat Sen. Ben Nelson should he decide to run again.
The topic came up at a news conference Heineman called to announce that Catherine Lang would lead the proposed merger of the state Department of Labor and the Department of Economic Development.
Reporters wanted to know if the governor really is considering the possibility of running for Senate this year since he seemed to soften his unequivocal no in a recent article in The New York Times.
That gave Heineman an opportunity to talk about the "Cornhusker kickback," "Obamacare" and what he describes as Nebraskans' anger and frustration with Nelson.
Five Republicans already are candidates for the Senate nomination, he said. And three of them, according to a poll, could pull more votes than Nelson.
"He's in serious trouble. He knows it. And I believe that we will elect a Republican to the United States Senate from this state to join Senator (Mike) Johanns ... in 2012," he said.
Heineman is being urged by Republican leaders to seek the seat.
Whenever key national players call, he said Tuesday, referring to Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell and National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn, he's going to take their calls and listen to them.
"I understand their arguments. They're persuasive," he said. "But I also indicated it would take a lot to change my mind."
There's no question about the importance of the race, he said.
"For Republicans to take control of the United States Senate, you've got to win this race," he said.
Still, he said, "I think I've indicated over, and over, and over, and over again, I have the best job in America and I love being the governor of this state."