Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Ensign's Gone... Now What?

Heh. That didn't take long.

In a final acquiescence to what many saw as the inevitable end to his scandal-scarred political career, U.S. Sen. John Ensign closed the door on a re-election bid Monday, dramatically improving his party’s chances of keeping his seat in a swing state that has been leaning more Democrat[ic].

The move accelerates the race for a seat that will help determine which party controls the U.S. Senate after 2012.

Ensign’s announcement intensifies the pressure on Democrats, who had been hoping the beleaguered incumbent would stay in the race long enough to weaken presumed Republican front-runner Rep. Dean Heller. [...]

Democrats must quickly figure out who their strongest candidate will be to run as they hope to resurrect the Obama wave and ride it once again to down-ticket victories.

Meanwhile, Republicans will try to quell a potential scrum of primary opponents who might view the open seat more favorably now, despite Heller’s presumed entrance.

So who's all in? Need we even ask? Dean Heller is running. He's wanted this for quite some time. And now, he has it...

Or at least, he thinks he has it in the bag.

What if solidly popular Secretary of State Ross Miller or Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto decides to run?

(Skip to 3:30 on the video.)

So will one of them step up and do it? Well, on the Democratic side, all depends on Shelley Berkley's decision. It looked likely Shelley would run when it also looked likely that Ensign would continue his vanity campaign, regardless of what his actual chances were. But now that Ensign was forced out by GOP power players is retiring "for family reasons", the race looks like less of "a gimme" for Shelley, and the DSCC has already sent smoke signals suggesting they don't believe she's the only game in town.

I suspect Shelley is now under intense pressure from the DSCC to make up her mind once and for all, and do so quickly. I'm sensing the DSCC prefers she bow out and let Ross Miller or Catherine Cortez Masto take a crack at this race, but they also realize Shelley has the full force of The Reids behind her and won't stand for a heated primary if she's that determined to run.

But does Dean Heller have that kind of luxury on the GOP side? Perhaps not. Guess who's already testing the waters!

It's possible that former Nevada Senate candidate Sharron Angle could mount another bid for a spot in the upper congressional chamber next year, an adviser to the Tea Party darling signaled to Ben Smith at Politico on Monday. [...]

On Monday, Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) announced that he would not run for reelection in 2012. It seems for Angle, the news could be just the opening she needed to mull another run.

"Almost 250,000 Republicans have already donated to Sharron Angle, probably more than any Republican in the country," wrote consultant John Yob in an e-mail to Smith. "She will be a tremendously strong candidate for whichever office she chooses to run for. A combination of a strong tea-party based grassroots operation and unprecedented campaign funding is a powerful combination in a Republican Primary."

During a recent trip to New Hampshire, Angle hinted that another campaign for federal office could be in her political future. According to the Union Leader, she ruled out a run for the White House.

Yes, my dears. "Our Lady of Perpetual Campaigning" returns! And she has a history of going toe to toe against Heller, so let the fireworks begin.

The Hill suggests that Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki might also want to run, but both Ralston and Roll Call suspect he's more likely to run for Heller's current NV-02 House seat. I think the latter two are right on this, as Krolicki probably doesn't want to take on Heller, and would rather ease his way into a cushy House seat.

So however this shakes out, Nevada is poised to yet again host the most topsy-turvy, thrilling, and exciting Senate campaign in the country. And of course, we'll be here to guide you through all the craziness of it. ;-)

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