When Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) announced his planned retirement late last year, Republicans saw one of their best chances to flip a seat in the Senate. Nebraska is notoriously red, and Nelson is the only Democrat in the state's five-person congressional delegation. Still, Democrats saw a glimmer of hope when GOP primary voters nominated Deb Fischer, a state legislator, over two better-known and better-financed opponents. The Democrats also convinced their best possible candidate to run: Bob Kerrey, a former senator and governor. Here's what you should know:


Deb Fischer (R)
Nebraska state senator
Age: 61

Bob Kerrey (D)
Former Nebraska governor (1983-87), U.S. Senator (1989-2001), president of New York's New School University
Age: 63

Nebraska has become more conservative since Kerrey retired from the Senate in 2001, and his subsequent decade living and working in liberal Manhattan certainly won't help him in the Cornhusker State. But Kerry's background hasn't been the campaign's main focus. In the three debates between Kerry and Fischer, the headline subject was reining in the federal government. Fischer has pledged to never raise taxes and favors a Constitutional balanced-budget amendment; Kerrey says he would push his own Constitutional amendment to make Congress nonpartisan, like Nebraska's legislature, and give it control over limiting campaign spending. Both candidates are running as somewhat independent of their party. "I'm not one of your good ol' boy politicians," Fischer said in the final debate. "I've never been a cookie-cutter politician," said Kerrey.

Fischer: 56 percent
Kerrey: 40 percent
(See the full data here.)

CASH ON HAND (as of June 30):
Fischer: $1.1 million on hand; $1.7 million total
Kerrey: $1.3 million on hand; $2.9 million total


Deb Fischer: "Where I Stand"


Bob Kerrey: "Relentless Determination"


More races at a glance:
Massachusetts Senate: Scott Brown vs. Elizabeth Warren

Read more political coverage at The Week's 2012 Election Center.