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  Republicans Prefer Heller Over Ensign
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ContributorJ.R. 
Last EditedJ.R.  Dec 28, 2010 11:01am
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News DateThursday, December 2, 2010 07:00:00 PM UTC0:0
DescriptionWednesday's news that Sen. John Ensign (R) is no longer under investigation by the Department of Justice for possible ethics violations was undoubtedly good news if Ensign decides to run for re-election in 2012.

But -- judging from numerous conversations with Republicans in Washington and Nevada -- don't expect the courtship of Republican Rep. Dean Heller (Nev.) to challenge Ensign for the seat to let up any time soon.

Ensign is still viewed among Nevada Republicans as highly vulnerable to a credible Democratic challenger in 2012 because of the salacious allegations that he tried to cover up an affair with the wife of his former advisor. And after flubbing their attempt to unseat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D) this year, Nevada Republicans are on high alert that they need to hold on to Ensign's seat. Ensign is also still under investigation by the Senate Ethics Committee, which could result in sanctions or even expulsion from the chamber.

"I think Heller badly wants to run and I don't think this development will dissuade him," said Nevada politics guru Jon Ralston. "The bigger issue for Ensign is the national GOP. These guys are not dummies. They know he is more vulnerable to a Democratic challenge than Heller."
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