While other experts may have to revise their ratings, Yours Truly was ahead of the curve again (see Hawaii’s recent retirement). We didn’t have Nevada as a toss-up, despite knowing that Senator Ensign was driving his party to defeat and despite Ensign’s insistence that he would not retire.
No, Political Daily realized the serious pressure coming down from the state and national GOP, expecting that Ensign was in so much trouble that the GOP would likely either support a republican challenger or withhold campaign funds entirely. We knew that under the intense pressure Ensign would have to retire. Today he made the right decision.
After putting his constituents through a scandal (an extra-marital affair / strike one), and attempting to bribe the husband of the cheating spouse (strike two), Ensign enraged his base by insisting on riding his party’s senate seat into the jaws of defeat. Ensign stepped back, re-evaluated, and made the right decision.
We had the seat as leaning to the GOP, expecting Ensign to cave to the pressure. Many other pundits had the seat as a toss-up, taking Ensign at his already tarnished word. (We salute Rothenburg, who also had the seat leaning GOP before the retirement announcement). While other pundits make the shift away from toss-up, we’re already upgrading the “Lean GOP” rating to “Likely GOP”.
The GOP has a deeper bench to chose from, and Ensign’s early announcement will help the eventual GOP candidate. We’ll have more on this race when we reach the letter “N” in our evaluations. (When we complete all of the seats, we’ll update each race with new posts pending developments). Our guess is that the GOP starts the race with several advantages with this open seat, and early polling suggests that we are right. As the candidates on each side jump in, we’ll narrow our analysis even more and discuss the candidates.
The great news for the GOP is that one of the three most vulnerable seats they have (NV, MA, and ME) is no longer in trouble, and funds can be used to target another seat instead of defending this one (if the GOP was even going to try). For the democrats, another pick-up possibility is likely gone, forcing them to spend money in NV that could have shored up a seat in trouble for their own party.
More on this race in the coming days.