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Sen. John Ensign trailed Rep. Dean Heller by 15 points in a hypothetical matchup of Nevada Republican Senate primary candidates, according to a survey conducted by Heller's GOP pollster, the Tarrance Group.
In a poll conducted Jan. 18-20, Heller garnered the support of 53 percent of 601 likely Republican primary voters. Ensign received 38 percent, with only 9 percent undecided. The margin of error was 4.1 points.
According to the polling memo, Heller dominates among self-described "extremely conservative" voters with 62 percent, as well as among 50 percent of tea party supporters, "pro-life Republicans, Second Amendment Republicans and habitual Fox/talk radio Republicans."
Heller also held a strong lead in Republican-leaning Washoe County, which includes Reno, garnering 70 percent of likely primary voters there, as well as 63 percent among those who live in conservative rural Nevada. Heller is based in Reno; Ensign is based in Las Vegas.
Republican sources in Nevada expect Heller to challenge Ensign in the primary, although the Congressman has yet to reveal his intentions. Ensign has already announced that he will seek re-election despite weak fundraising as a result of a scandal that broke nearly two years ago involving an admitted affair with a former aide.