Sen. John Ensign is scheduled to hold a meeting of his re-election steering committee on Feb. 1, another sign the embattled Nevada Republican is committed to running for a third term despite his political vulnerability.
According to an invitation sent out by Ensign’s Washington, D.C., political action fundraisers, Paula Dukes and Laura Rizzo, the meeting is to occur at the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
Attendance and the willingness of Ensign’s traditional D.C. allies to aid his 2012 re-election bid could signal the Senator’s viability in the wake of a scandal that broke in 2009 around an affair he had with former aide Cynthia Hampton. Her husband, Doug Hampton, also is a former Ensign aide, in addition to, at one time, being among the Senator’s closest personal friends.
Republican sources in Nevada have speculated that raising money in the Silver State could prove difficult for Ensign, although his Washington fundraising should run smoothly given his status as an incumbent Senator who sits on high-profile committees, including the Finance Committee. Meanwhile, Ensign could be vulnerable to a GOP primary challenge, particularly if Rep. Dean Heller jumps into the race. As Roll Call has reported, Nevada Republicans have said they don’t believe Ensign could beat Heller.
Roll Call Politics rates this race a Tossup.
However, Ensign in a recent television interview expressed confidence that he could win a primary and raise the necessary funds to run a competitive re-election bid. President Barack Obama won Nevada in 2008, and it is expected to be a crucial swing state again in 2012.