LINCOLN — Gov. Dave Heineman sought to dampen talk Thursday that he might be reconsidering a run for the U.S. Senate next year.
In an interview with The World-Herald, the governor rejected suggestions that national GOP leaders have made progress in their attempts to persuade him to challenge incumbent Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson.
"I think I've been abundantly clear," Heineman said. "I love the job I'm doing. It would take a lot to change my mind. I don't know what that would be."
Heineman's comments in Omaha followed an appearance before the Grand Island Chamber of Commerce at which he told those in the audience they shouldn't wait for an announcement of his candidacy.
"You might be waiting a long time before that happens. I'm a little smarter than that," he said.
Buzz about a Heineman candidacy intensified after the governor confirmed that Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell and other national Republican leaders had mounted a renewed effort to urge him into the Senate race.
Heineman characterized their arguments as "persuasive," although he said he had told them no "until now."
The comments appeared to open the door for reconsideration, especially following months in which Heineman had said he had no interest whatsoever in the Senate race.
On Thursday, he told The World-Herald that those urging him to run were not even close to persuading him yet.
"I don't think I've cracked the door open," he said.
But his comments also brought up one of his most stunning reversals: the decision to call a special legislative session on regulating the proposed Keystone XL pipeline after insisting a special session was not needed.
Heineman contrasted the "common-sense solution" reached during the session with the deadlock and apparent lack of interest in finding solutions on the federal level.
"I don't think that would be a whole lot of fun," he said.
Heineman, whose term ends in 2014, said he believes that any of the three leading GOP candidates — Attorney General Jon Bruning, State Treasurer Don Stenberg and State Sen. Deb Fischer — could defeat Nelson.
Nelson's seat is of special interest to GOP strategists hoping to gain a Senate majority because they perceive Nelson as vulnerable following his vote for the federal health reform law.
So far Nelson has not said whether he will seek re-election. He is expected to decide soon.
This article includes material from the World-Herald News Service.
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