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Ensign Heads to Iowa to Press for a GOP Renewal

Douglas Graham/Roll Call
Sen. John Ensign heads to Iowa next month to give a speech and meet with voters in what some view as his first look at the presidential race in 2012.

Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) is heading to Iowa on June 1 to deliver a keynote political address, tour a biotechnology firm and participate in a meet-and-greet at a local ice cream parlor.

Feel free to draw your own conclusions.

“Something like [running for president], first of all, is unrealistic for, I think, almost anybody to think about. It really is,” Ensign said in an interview Thursday, when asked if he was interested in making a bid for the White House in 2012. “The daunting responsibility of that job is just overwhelming.

“Really what I’m focused on right now — not only being a Senator and representing my state, but also trying to help us as a party in any way that I can.”

Ensign, a conservative and chairman of the Senate Republican Policy Committee, said he made a tactical decision earlier this year to cultivate a national presence to help the GOP bounce back from the political doldrums. Ensign, now in his second Senate term, served as the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee over the 2008 cycle.

Ensign is hoping to build on the connections he developed as NRSC chairman. His goal: travel the country and deliver the message that the GOP has the right solutions for the nation’s ills.

That will be the focus of Ensign’s Monday speech in Sioux City, which is being given in concert with the American Future Fund’s Conservative Lecture Series. Ensign will begin his day near Des Moines, head to a tour of Trans Ova Genetics, and then go on to visit the Wells’ Dairy Blue Bunny Ice Cream Parlor to meet local residents — otherwise known as potential first-in-the-nation Iowa caucus-goers.

Ensign, 51, said his address will center on the GOP principles of limited government, an adherence to the Constitution, and personal and fiscal responsibility. He will argue that those Republican principles can help guide practical solutions to health care, energy and education reforms, as well as what kind of individual President Barack Obama should look for in a Supreme Court justice.

“We need people who can articulate what I believe is a message that is the heart of the Republican Party — who can articulate that message in a way that connects with people and connects with voters,” Ensign said. “We don’t have the White House anymore, and so we need more spokespeople. ... We need more people being open to our message, and that’s a big part of the reason I’m going.”

Ensign stressed that he sees himself as just one of many capable GOP messengers and said he welcomes both old faces and newer bright lights in the campaign to rebuild the party brand.

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