Embattled Sen. John Ensign (R-NV), who has been mired in multiple ethics investigations over the past two years, has a steep hill to climb if he hopes to keep his Senate seat in 2012, according to a new poll.
In the PPP poll, half of Nevada voters say they disapprove of Ensign’s job performance, and nearly six in ten say he should not seek reelection. What’s more, Ensign trails in hypothetical races with every Democratic challenger matched against him, but another Republican, Rep. Dean Heller, tops each of those same Democrats,
In the poll, 59% of respondents said they thought Ensign should not seek a third term in the Senate, while just 26% thought he should run again. And even if he were to run again, he would be hard pressed to convince his constituents that he deserves a second term. Fifty percent of respondents said they disapproved of Ensign’s job performance, versus 35% who said they approved.
That high disapproval is reflected in Ensign’s poor showing in the hypothetical head-to-head matchups.
Against Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, Ensign trails by 10 points, 45% to 35%. Rep. Shelly Berkley tops Ensign 45% to 42%, while Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto leads the sitting Senator 44% to 42%. Secretary of State Ross Miller barely edges Ensign as well, 40% to 39%.
Those numbers are even more shocking given how relatively unknown each of Ensign’s challengers are. In the poll, 34% of voters didn’t know Goodman well enough to form an opinion of him, and Masto was virtually unknown to 35% of respondents. Thirty-seven percent had no opinion on Berkley, and a full 50% had the same problem with Miller.
PPP’s Tom Jensen writes:
Their leads over Ensign would be more likely to increase than anything else if any of them was actually to enter the race and become better known across the state.
If Ensign were to step aside, the GOP would likely have a much better chance at keeping that Senate seat for their party in 2012. In matchups with those same Democrats, Rep. Dean Heller polled an aveage of 14 points better than Ensign. Heller’s closest race came against Goodman, whom he led 45% to 38% in the poll. Heller also leads Berkley 51% to 38%, tops Masto 46% to 37%, and leads Miller 46% to 34%.
Ensign has said he will seek reelection, despite a cloud of alleged ethical impropriety that has hung over him since his admission two years ago that he had an affair with a top aide’s wife. Not only that, but his parents then paid $96,000 to the former mistress and her family, allegedly for their silence on the matter. The Federal Elections Commission and the Department of Justice both investigated the matter, but ultimately dropped their cases for lack of evidence. The Senate Ethics Committee is still investigating Ensign.
The PPP poll was conducted January 3-5 among 932 Nevada voters. It has a margin of error of 3.2%.