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Political Notebook

Senator Ben Nelson won’t run for reelection in 2012

U.S. Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., announces his retirement from the U.S. Senate, Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2011 outside of his home in Omaha, Neb. Nelson said he will retire rather than seek a third term next year, dealing a significant setback to Democratic efforts to maintain control of the chamber. (AP Photo/Dave Weaver)

Dave Weaver/Associated Press

Senator Ben Nelson, D-Neb., announced outside his home in Omaha, Neb., yesterday that he would retire rather than seek a third term in 2012.

LINCOLN, Neb. — Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska said yesterday he will retire rather than seek a third term next year, dealing a significant setback to Democratic efforts to maintain control of the chamber.

The 70-year-old conservative Democrat, whose seat is targeted by Republicans for 2012, said that “while I relish the opportunity to undertake the work that lies ahead, I also feel it’s time for me to step away from elective office, spend more time with my family, and look for new ways to serve our state and nation.’’

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“Simply put: It is time to move on,’’ he said.

Republicans, who need to net four seats to take back the Senate next year, say Nebraska has tilted to the right in recent years. Nelson is the lone Democrat among the state’s five-member congressional delegation.

Nelson could have given Democrats a fighting chance. A two-term governor before winning a Senate seat, he has rebounded after being down.

But he recently expressed dismay about a divided Congress’s inability to pass meaningful legislation, frustration that echoed in yesterday’s statement, in which he said public office is “about promoting the common good, not the agenda of the radical right or the radical left.’’ — ASSOCIATED PRESS

Romney critical of Gingrich stance on ‘activist’ judges

LONDONDERRY, N.H. - Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has muted his criticism of former House speaker Newt Gingrich, although he denounced the former House speaker’s proclamations to rein in the judiciary.

Speaking to more than 100 people crammed into the Coach Stop Restaurant yesterday, Romney never mentioned Gingrich by name. But he did criticize Gingrich’s position that he would force “activist judges’’ to justify their rulings before Congress and would abolish courts based on their decisions.

Romney, asked by a voter how he would curtail “extreme rulings,’’ said he would appoint members of the Supreme Court who would overturn extreme rulings. Romney said he would not allow Congress to subpoena judges to explain their rulings or to remove judges. “Then we make a super branch known as Congress,’’ Romney said.

Romney added that if a Democratic president or Congress were elected, they could do the same thing. “Every few years, you’d have elected congresspeople changing the rulings of the Supreme Court.’’

As Romney, Gingrich, and Representative Ron Paul of Texas battle for the top spot in Iowa, which holds the nation’s first caucuses in six days, Romney declined to predict how the caucuses will turn out.

“I want to do well in all the states,’’ he said. “A couple of weeks ago I was a distant third in Iowa; you just don’t know what’s going to happen in this process.’’

Romney attended two campaign events in New Hampshire before traveling to Iowa yesterday afternoon. He will return to New Hampshire, which holds the nation’s first primary on Jan. 10, next weekend.

Romney’s criticism of Gingrich was more subdued, but he could not resist one zinger. Asked in Portsmouth, N.H., about Gingrich’s failure to get on Virginia’s ballot, Romney said, “I think he compared that to Pearl Harbor. I think it’s more like Lucille Ball at the chocolate factory. You’ve got to get it organized.’’ Of all the candidates, only Romney and Paul met Virginia’s requirements.

The Gingrich campaign compared the failure to the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor - saying that it was a setback, but that Gingrich would emerge victorious. Romney referred to an episode of the 1950s TV show “I Love Lucy’’ when Lucy tries - with much difficulty - to keep up with work at a candy factory.

The Boston Herald endorsed Romney.

A Herald editorial, posted yesterday on its website, called most of the other candidates in the race “often engaging but deeply flawed.’’ The Herald wrote that Romney is the only Republican candidate “with the integrity, the experience, the organizational strength, and the intelligence to beat Barack Obama.’’ It also called Romney the only candidate “who can put this nation back on the path to fiscal sanity and restore it to its central role on the world stage.’’

The editorial wrote that Romney did accomplish things in Massachusetts, including his health care reform which “works here for us.’’ Romney was Massachusetts governor from 2003 to 2007.

This is no automatic hometown newspaper endorsement of Romney, who lives in Belmont. In the 2008 race, the Herald, which has a conservative-leaning editorial board, endorsed John McCain in the presidential primary over Romney. — SHIRA SCHOENBERG

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