Sen Bill Nelson in unfamiliar territory
If you're Sen. Bill Nelson, you must feel good about the campaign year ahead: flush with $7.5 million in your campaign account; President Barack Obama preparing a massive get-out-the-vote campaign for Florida Democrats; a crowded Republican primary lacking any titans and promising to be bloody.
But spend a little time chatting with Florida's senior senator, and it's clear the state's most durable politician is walking on volatile and unfamiliar political territory.
An aggressively cautious middle-of-the-roader, Nelson, 69, now lives in the tea party era where hyper-partisanship reigns. The Orlando Democrat is far and away the longest-serving statewide politician, with four decades under his belt. This at a time when voters say they're fed up with incumbents and, especially, Washington politicians.
"It's a lot easier for people of like political minds to talk to each other and to reinforce each other and to stir each other up. That is contributing to the polarization in American politics, that you get people willing and able only to talk to others who think exactly like they do, instead of being out there talking to everybody," Nelson said. "You have a lot more tendency to pull things apart in politics now than you did just six years ago."
Much of what he has understood about winning campaigns no longer applies so much in the era of social media and minute-by-minute cable news cycles.