This wasn’t much of a surprise, and it’s not at all clear how much it puts a Senate seat in play for 2012, but Repub Sen. John Ensign announced today that he won’t seek a third term in 2012. Ensign had been a rising Repub star and had presidential ambitions before his career was ruined by the revelation of an affair with the wife of one of his aides (possible made worse by payment of money from Ensign’s family to the aide, which gave the appearance of hush money).
Now the seat is open. A Republican congressman, Dean Heller, was preparing to run for the seat whether or not Ensign did. Sharron angle, the tea-party inspired righty who challenged Sen. Harry Reid last year may have a choice now between taking another shot at the Senate or going after Heller’s House seat.
I would rate Nevada a purple state recently leaning slightly red. Reid has, of course, won five straight Senate races, but two of the last three have been squeakers. The current and two previous governors have been Repubs. Nevada went overwhelmingly for Obama in 2008 (55-43 percent), but went for Bush in in 2004 and 2000 by narrow margins. In fact, Nevada has gone with the winner in eight straight presidential elections and 24 of the past 25, which makes it a quintessential swing state.