Handicappers: Ensign retirement doesn't alter state of race as of now
March 7th, 2011
05:04 PM ET
12 years ago

Handicappers: Ensign retirement doesn't alter state of race as of now

Washington (CNN) - Republican Sen. John Ensign of Nevada's announcement Monday that he won't run for re-election next year is apparently not changing the political landscape, as of now.

In the wake of Ensign's announcement, neither of two of the top non-partisan political handicappers are changing their rankings of the race for the now open Senate seat in Nevada.

The two-term senator and one-time rising star in the Republican party admitted last June to an extramarital affair with Cindy Hampton, his onetime campaign treasurer. She is the wife of Doug Hampton, a former top aide to the senator. In a statement from Las Vegas Monday, Ensign said "I have learned through my mistake, there are consequences to sin."

Rep. Dean Heller of Nevada's second congressional district, who was weighing a primary challenge to Ensign, is now considered likely to run for the open seat. The big question mark is whether any of the Republicans who ran in last year's Senate contest, including GOP nominee Sharron Angle, will make a bid for their party's nomination.

For the Democrats, Rep. Shelley Berkley of the state's first congressional district has discussed a possible run, but has not made any decisions. Other Democrats mentioned are state Attorney General Catherine Cortex Masto and Secretary of State Ross Miller.

The non-partisan Rothenberg Report is keeping their ranking of the race as "Lean Republican."

"With Rep. Dean Heller (R) as a likely candidate, Republicans are well-positioned to hold the open Senate seat. Of course it's still very early in the race and it's unclear who Democrats will nominate, but the race remains Lean Republican for now," says the Rothenberg Report.

The non-partisan Cook Political Report is keeping their ranking as "Toss Up." Cook Report senior editor Jennifer Duffy calls Nevada a competitive, says the Democrats have a bench of candidates that could be competitive statewide, and adds that "until we have primary winners, Nevada was and still is a toss up."

Republicans say they're optimistic they'll keep the seat in party hands.

"I am confident we will successfully retain this seat as we work to win back a new Senate Republican majority," said Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, in a statement.

Of course it's a different story from the Democrats.

"Nevada is now an open seat, and ripe for a Democratic pickup. It remains high on our target list. Whoever Republicans field as their candidate will have a tough time holding onto this seat in a blue-trending state with President Obama at the top of the ticket," said Guy Cecil, executive director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, in a statement.

Sen. Barack Obama won Nevada by 12 points over Sen. John McCain in the 2008 presidential election. That was a big switch from four years earlier when President George W. Bush carried the state by two points in his re-election victory over Sen. John Kerry. Although Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid hung onto his seat last November, the GOP scored big in the state's other contests in the midterm elections. The Republicans easily held onto the governor's office and captured a Democratic held House seat.

But with Obama back on the ballot in 2012, Nevada will most likely be a fierce battleground in the next election.

Follow Paul Steinhauser on Twitter: @PsteinhauserCNN

Filed under: 2012 • Nevada
soundoff (9 Responses)
  1. Montana

    The party of "Family Values" my ass, more like the "Party of hypocrites". Poor Christopher Lee, at least he resigned! What about "hush money" Senator John Ensign (R-NV) and "diaper boy" Sen. David Vitter (R-LA)! Too Funny!

    March 7, 2011 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  2. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    Sharia Angle has lots of cash, so I am sure she has an advantage over the chicken lady. It will be interesting to see who the republican party puts up that will effectively attack the unemployed, hispanics, uninsured, retirees, veterans, and union members.

    March 7, 2011 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  3. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    Instead of jobs, jobs, jobs, whoever is elected, if a republican, I am sure they will continue wasting their energy on anti abortion, anti planned parenthood, and increasing the national debt by repealing health reform and unfunded tax cuts for the wealthy.

    March 7, 2011 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  4. Squigman

    Ever notice how we just do not have the money needed, to keep states afloat? We do not have the funds for domestic programs, and a good health care network? We never have the needed funds to help the homeless, or children who dont have enough to eat? Yet we have plenty for frivilous expences, like campaign money, motorcades, military action in two war fronts, plus the possibility of military action in Lybia. Watching the news, and readinig the paper should be manditory. Maybe then we'll have an electorate that's informed, and not one that's relying on mis-information and voodoo to make decisions that effect us all. Knowledge is empowering. The more informed we are, the less likely we are to be stampeded.

    March 7, 2011 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  5. Rickster

    "The federal government posted its largest monthly deficit in history in February at $223 billion, according to preliminary numbers the Congressional Budget Office released Monday morning."......................Heckuva job, Barry!

    March 7, 2011 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  6. gt

    both sides dont have any values... ensigh or barney frank , john edwards, bill clinton whers is there famliy values....dont throw rocks if you live in a glass house...

    March 7, 2011 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  7. Sniffit

    "Alleging isn't proving."

    I beg to differ. In today's "news" media, the accusation IS the conviction. They don't do an iota of investigative journalism and merely spout off at the mouth whatever the hell anyone says about anyone without a critical thought, research, facts, evidence, or anything else to back it up or determine the veracity of the statement. We've got a scary high percentage of this country running around with the nonsense beliefs that Obama wasn't born in America or that he's a muslim and it exists and spread because the "news" media did the GOP's dirty work for them...just as they did with teh "death panels" crap, "Iraq has WMDs" and the outing of Valerie Plame. The reality is, it is profitable to simple repeat things ad nauseum without checking on their truth and then to have a couple/few bobbleheads sit at a table in front of camera while they foam at the mouth over whether questions liek whether water is wet as though someone shouldn't just stand up and smack the jackhole arguing that it's dry. Pretending that something's a legitimate debate and ignoring all the facst, evidence, historical precedent, etc., that proves beyond any reasonable doubt what the real answers are...that doesn't turn it into a reasonable, legitimate debate....but it sure as hell makes for good ratings and high ad revenue. So yeah, I beg to differ. All you have to do to "convict" someone of whatever false nonsense you can come up with, be it in the political realm or otherwise, is make the accusation, pretend to be a Very Serious Person and hope the "news" media picks up the baton and runs with it on your behalf, because if it does, that person will NEVER live it down or scrape off the stigma.

    March 7, 2011 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  8. Sebastian Kent

    If Democrats nominate an accomplished Latina in Colorado, particularly with Obama on top, they can take this seat from the Republicans.

    March 7, 2011 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  9. DENNA

    If the Republicans don't cough up some meaningful job growth, and soon, that seat will go to a Democrat. The Tea Party's only concern was stopping President Obama's agenda. So they voted in these highly unqualified people to mess things up. Not one Rethug seems to be thinking about jobs at all.

    March 7, 2011 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |