The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

Senator Ensign to Announce . . . Retirement.


We may see another open Senate seat soon:

Nevada Sen. John Ensign is scheduled to announce plans on what his office is calling his “political future” Monday in Las Vegas.The GOP lawmaker has been embroiled in controversy in recent years with news of an affair with a former staffer’s wife.Sen. Ensign is slated to make an announcement at a news conference at the George Federal Courthouse at 12 p.m.

How often do embattled incumbent senators go to federal courthouses to hold press conferences to announce that they are indeed running for reelection?

If Ensign does not seek reelection, you will probably see many Republicans sighing relief, as the scandals appear to have made Ensign damaged goods. Recent polls show Ensign in bad shape; his chances in the GOP primary look pretty meager, trailing U.S. Rep. Dean Heller 38 percent to 53 percent. If Ensign chooses to not seek another term, Heller, reportedly chewing over a run, will probably feel pretty good about his odds.

UPDATE: If you were choosing to announce you were running for another term, would you pick the exact same spot from which you publicly admitted the affair? Sure, one of his district offices is there, but if you want people to look past a scandal, you would want the visuals of your announcement to be as far as humanly possible from the spot where you revealed the news, no?

ANOTHER UPDATE: Roll Call gets the official word first:

Sen. John Ensign is expected to announce at an afternoon news conference in Las Vegas that he will retire rather than face a brutal 2012 re-election campaign, according to knowledgeable sources.

For Republicans, this is addition by subtraction. Winning a Senate race in Nevada in a presidential year is difficult enough; had Ensign won the GOP primary, Democrats would have lambasted him for the affair, poor judgment, effort to help his mistress’s husband get a lucrative job, etc. Presuming Heller is the nominee, the Republicans will be running a former stockbroker, two-term member of the Nevada house and three-term secretary of state. In 2006, one of the Republicans he faced in the House primary was . . . Sharron Angle, a name familiar to those who followed last year’s Senate race. He beat her by 421 votes. He won by 11 percent while McCain and Obama were splitting his district evenly in 2008 and he won 63 percent of the vote in 2010.

His lifetime ACU rating is 89 out of 100.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Sen. John Cornyn, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, responds:

I thank Senator Ensign for his nearly two decades of public service. Next year’s Senate race in Nevada will now come down to a clear choice between two competing visions for our country — between a Republican candidate who believes in smaller government, fiscal responsibility and creating good, private sector jobs, and a Democrat candidate who believes in keeping our country on the same reckless fiscal path of more government and higher taxes. Republicans welcome this choice and I am confident we will successfully retain this seat as we work to win back a new Senate Republican majority.

Tags: Dean Heller , Jon Ensign


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