June 1st, 2009
02:20 PM ET
9 years ago

Ensign 2012? Iowa visit fuels speculation

Sen. John Ensign will speak to an audience in Sioux City as part of a lecture series put on by the American Future Fund.

Sen. John Ensign will speak to an audience in Sioux City as part of a lecture series put on by the American Future Fund.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - A well-publicized trip by a GOP senator to Iowa can only mean one thing: it's time to add another name to the list of Republicans thinking about challenging President Obama in 2012.

Not that any presidential hopeful would admit to it yet.

Tonight, though, Nevada senator John Ensign will speak to an audience in Sioux City as part of a lecture series put on by the American Future Fund, a conservative group conventiently located in Des Moines, the capital of the state with perhaps the most influential role in the presidential nominating process. Not a bad place to make friends if you have ambitions beyond the U.S. Senate.

The group certainly didn't hurt Ensign's reputation among Iowa Republicans by hyping his visit with a radio ad calling him "a rising star in the conservative movement." The location of Ensign's speech is also illuminating: Sioux City is in the western part of the state, a Republican stronghold.

Although "Ensign" isn't exactly a household name, the Nevada senator has not been shy about raising his profile since last November. He has been among the Obama's administration's toughest critics in a party searching for its next generation of leaders. After President Obama was photographed shaking hands and smiling with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Ensign told CNN's "State of the Union" that the president was being "irresponsible" by "laughing and joking" with Chavez.

Adding to his cachet is the fact that he hails from a swing state that has tilted more and more Democratic in recent cycles. But Ensign, a former veterinarian, also had the unfortunate job of steering the National Republican Senatorial Committee through the disastrous 2008 cycle, in which the party lost seven seats, with an eighth in Minnesota likely to go to Democrat Al Franken.

But that's ancient history at the moment, as the GOP is desperate to regroup. Ensign will likely be all smiles while making a pair of campaign-style stops during his heartland jaunt. He'll tour Trans Ova Genetics, an animal cloning research facility, and he'll also hold a "meet and great" at the famous Wells Blue Bunny Ice Cream Parlor in Le Mars - a tradition for any candidate visiting Iowa.

Other potential 2012ers have plans to visit Iowa in the coming weeks. Mike Huckabee, who won the Iowa caucuses last year and has already returned to the state on a book tour, will hold a fundraiser in northwest Iowa next week for Republican gubernatorial prospect Bob Vander Plaats. And Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, the former chairman of the Republican National Commitee, is set to headline an event for the Iowa Republican Party later this month.

UPDATE: An Ensign aide says the senator's speech, set to begin at 8 p.m. EST, will discuss "the themes of the Republican party, personal responsibility and limited government, as opposed to bailouts and big government solutions pushed by the administration."

Filed under: John Ensign
soundoff (25 Responses)
  1. gl, Pittsburgh

    it's time to add another name to the list of Republicans thinking about challenging President Obama in 2012.

    This is all the Republicans have been doing since our President took office trying to find a way to beat the President down so the Republicans can win back the White House in 2012. The Republicans have no plan to help this country get back on it feets.

    June 1, 2009 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  2. Stacy from Leesburg, VA

    Wasn't he on Seinfeld?

    June 1, 2009 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  3. Moderate Democrat

    I hope he truly does label himself as a Conservative. As in "back woods, cross burning, anti women's rights, only white people get special treatment, only rich people get tax breaks and SCREW the rest of america because this isn't your country' mentality.

    It will clench the 21% morons for him, but assure that the rest of the country that wants to try out NEW things for the FUTURE, won't vote for him.

    These conservatives have NO new ideas and NO solutions. They are the same ones sitting on their butts and doing NOTHING, for the past eight years other then dragging this country DOWN, DOWN DOWN.

    Out with the GOP until they oust these dirt bags!

    June 1, 2009 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  4. Patty in the CA mountains

    Of course he's looking at 2012.....that's why his face has been everywhere possible lately being critical of Obama. He is just what the republicans want.....a TV face.....doesn't mean his politics are any good, just means he has "the look".....white, male. As a former resident of Las Vegas, who was there when Ensign made his appearance in Nevada politics, I would urge anyone looking his way to check the facts of his carpetbagging before committing to him.

    June 1, 2009 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  5. The Party of NO is only “pro-life” to save a zygote now, so it can then kill the “babies” 18 years later as soldiers in an elective religious war.

    Another "rising" star?

    The latest Gallup poll of 26K shows only 2% of blacks are republiKCLAN, so looks like Sambo Steele is not doing a great job at getting the hip-hop crowd to join him in the big "hizzy" of the Aryan Nation.

    Only 5% of Hispanics are repubs and the poll was taken BEFORE the Party of NO began ripping Sotomayor.

    On the plus side, you have 63% of the white rabid religious Reich.

    So, another "rising" old white star?

    Gotta love a party that keeps striving for "party purity"!

    Do not change one thing repubs continue to insist you know best and force your minority view on the majority of Americans.

    It is working so well!

    June 1, 2009 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |

    Born and raised in Nevada...and beleive me WE don't want this MORON in the White House...Hopefully he wont be around Nevada much longer either..He is a walking, talking screwball.

    June 1, 2009 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  7. tim

    God, this guy looks slimey. At the rate they're going, they better hope there is a Republican party in 2012.

    June 1, 2009 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  8. Bob of Lompoc

    "..a rising star in the Conservative movement". Whew. That's like being a rising star in the Edsel Automobile Marketing Movement.

    These Republicans keep marching out one Angry, White, Rich, Republican Male after the other. Is Bob Dole on top of his game ? He breaks that mold. Run him out there. At least he had a sense of humor. Now there is a REAL War Hero. For that reason, I salute you, Senator Dole.

    June 1, 2009 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  9. JT

    Ensign – It's a waste of time and money. The GOP will be defunct then.

    June 1, 2009 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  10. Mari( maybe one of my comments will be posted)

    Dear Mr. Ensign, and the rest of the GOPers:

    You folks forget, all the pandering that Richard Nixon did when he first visited China! Nixon is shown in a photo (look it up) heartily shaking Mao's hand and smiling ear to ear!

    Another example, Bush with the Saudi Princes & King! ON September 11th, 2001, we were attacked by 7 SAUDI nationals! The Bush regime allowed many Saudis to "quietly" fly out of the U.S. while our airports were closed! A few months later, BUSH visited Saudi Arabia......... and was photographed & filmed *** holding hands with & KISSING**** the Saudis!!

    The GOP is nuts, to be all upset about President Obama shaking hands and smiling with Hugo Chavez! What was he suppose to do spit in his face?!

    What about all the KISSING & HAND HOLDING that BUSH did with OUR ENEMIES the Saudis????????????????????????????????

    June 1, 2009 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  11. Jayden,FL

    That man looks evil! lol I dont think the Republican Party will be around in 2012 by the way things looks like now!

    June 1, 2009 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  12. Change in America

    Republican is awful and Iowa will put President Obama back in office

    June 1, 2009 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  13. Lou from CT

    Sheesh – can't we turn the page on 2009 before these slimeballs come out for 2012???

    Hey Ensign – back to the Senate with you...

    June 1, 2009 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  14. Barbara Independent in NY

    This man doesn't recognize the difference between "laughing and joking" and diplomacy and good manners. The GOP needs to keep looking.

    June 1, 2009 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  15. Tee NC

    The Party of NO is only “pro-life” to save a zygote now, so it can then kill the “babies” 18 years later as soldiers in an elective religious war.

    it doesn't matter if you are a Rep/Dem/Indy, your post of hate and racist remarks are very scary. I hope for the sake of all of us that you are some bored middle school student that posted on a dare. If not please seek help!

    June 1, 2009 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  16. Obama Victim

    anyone who bashes Obummer can't be all bad

    June 1, 2009 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  17. Joe

    Ensign hasn't done ANYTHING for the the people of Nevada. Why would we want him in the White House?

    June 1, 2009 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  18. Dawn in Pa

    Lets put it this way, the way the Republicans have been ripping apart Judge Sotomayor, do they think they will be back in the sadle again? The ones who are not talking is the ones who has a high minority constituants.

    Obama has this in the bag, and if they still listen to Rush, Gingrich and Cheney, well they won't be back until 2020.

    June 1, 2009 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  19. Jill

    ALL Republicans seem to be running for President in 2012. Notice none have any answers to help out now. Twits!

    June 1, 2009 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  20. Jefe

    Its nice that he is for Animal Rights, but it is unfortunate he is anti-American (being part of the modern, Anti-Constitution Republican party). Also, I am a Christian who believes strongly in Separation of Church and State, but GOP-ers generally think of this nation as a Theocracy. Because of their theocratic leanings, I am leery of any Republican who "speaks in tongues". Remember, Bush thought God told him to attack Iraq.

    June 1, 2009 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  21. AA

    Romney don't keep giving your grandoise speeches like you care because you don't. You even said you are doing this to help out people who helped you. sleezy people helping sleezy people.

    June 1, 2009 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  22. David

    My gawd, this is disgusting/outrageous! Obama hasn't even been in office for 6 months and you're already blathering about the 2012 race? CNN continues to sink lower and lower.

    June 1, 2009 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  23. Steph

    Don't the Republicans know that they may be needed to help get us out of the big pile of junk we are currently in? Ideas anyone? Ideas would be good here...hello...anyone...

    Why do they think they can just ignore everything and everyone and begin running for president in 2012????

    June 1, 2009 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  24. phoenix86

    Can we do ourselves a favor and move the 2012 election to this year? The sooner Obama is out, the better for us all.

    June 1, 2009 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  25. Frank, Las Vegas

    Ensign??? He better hope he does well in Iowa, because in Nevada he couldn't win re-election if his term was up, but, we in Nevada are stuck with him until 2012. Number one, he's truly an idiot who doesn't listen to the citizens he represents. Number two, he's really not very smart except to speak the GOP talking points. When he speaks on his own, he's like a male Palin. Duh, you beatcha.

    June 1, 2009 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |