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Blog Home Page --> Senate -- Nevada

Reid, Angle Fight Just Beginning

By Kyle Trygstad

The Nevada players are set, and for the next five months Harry Reid and Sharron Angle will be aiming directly for each other, with both looking to make the race a referendum on the other one -- Reid as the leader of the out-of-touch Democrats in Washington, and Angle as the right-wing extremist.

Thanks to dismal polling for Reid against Angle, the Senate majority leader remains one of the most vulnerable incumbent Democrats. However, the four-term senator got the opponent he wanted in the tea party-backed Angle, who's driven a wedge into the state party establishment and perhaps caused national party leaders to hold their collective breath in hopes she doesn't open her general election campaign as Rand Paul did in Kentucky.

National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn told ABC News on Wednesday that he immediately reached out to Angle following her win. In a year when ties to Washington can be a detriment to a campaign, Cornyn said, candidates like Angle and Paul "may or may not want our help. But we're here if they want it. ... Winning an election is not rocket science, but it does take some discipline, it does take some organization. That's what we hope to add."

Meanwhile, the Reid campaign is wasting no time, reportedly releasing two new positive TV ads today and welcoming Bill Clinton to Las Vegas tonight for a rally. This will be Reid's third round of ads, after going on the air in October and April.

In a fundraising solicitation yesterday, campaign manager Brandon Hall wrote that Angle "makes Rand Paul look like a reasoned moderate," and that she opposes health care and Wall Street reform and "supports shipping nuclear waste to Nevada's Yucca Mountain."

Whether Angle was the preferred candidate or not, the NRSC says it fully supports her and that Reid is no less vulnerable.

"I don't think this is any day for Harry to be giddy or popping champagne corks," Cornyn told ABC. "I think he's in very deep trouble."

RCP currently rates this race a Toss Up.

Nevada Republicans Split On Angle

Following tea party-backed Rand Paul's stumble out of the gate of the Kentucky Republican Senate primary last week, another candidate across the country is likewise giving some establishment Republicans fits.

Sharron Angle, whose endorsement by the Tea Party Express led to a surge in polling, is no longer an afterthought in the June 8 Nevada GOP Senate primary. Like Paul, Angle is not the establishment-preferred candidate. That would be Sue Lowden, a former state party chair and state senator who entered politics in 1992 by knocking off the Democratic state Senate majority leader.

With the seat of the U.S. Senate majority leader in play, Nevada Republican leaders are split over several aspects of Angle's candidacy: whether she can beat Sen. Harry Reid; whether her views are too extreme; and whether she will be able to successfully work alongside others with differing opinions in the Senate -- as Orrin Hatch and Ted Kennedy once did, for example.

"Some Republicans don't think she is ready, but for the most part the voters do," said Republican National Committeewoman Heidi Smith. "We in Nevada have become tired of the old backroom politics, and I think the voters see Sharron as a change."

That plays out in recent polling, with the last public poll showing Angle trailing Lowden by just 5 points.

Some of the questions about Angle arise from her 2008 primary challenge to state Senate Majority Leader William Raggio. Two years after nearly defeating Republican Rep. Dean Heller in a primary, Angle again came up short. But with the state party forced to spend valuable resources to defend Raggio, less was available for others and Republicans lost two state Senate races -- and, with them, the majority.

Raggio, now Senate minority leader, has endorsed Lowden and is not surprisingly unexcited about Angle's Senate bid.

"The concern of most Republicans is that she's the least likely one who could beat Harry Reid -- and the race is close at this point," he said.

Continue reading "Nevada Republicans Split On Angle" »

New Ethics Complaint Filed Against Ensign

A new ethics complaint was filed yesterday against Nevada Sen. John Ensign, whom the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington named as one of several lawmakers who lived in a Capitol Hill house paying below-market rent.

"At a time when so many Americans are losing their housing it is surprising to discover that some members of Congress are lucky enough to have a landlord that charges below market rent for fairly luxurious accommodations - and offers housekeeping and meal service to boot," said CREW executive director Melanie Sloan.

The Senate and House ethics committees could take up the complaint and investigate the unique living situation that Ensign and members of both parties from both chambers of Congress have had. Ensign is already under federal investigation for his actions following a much-publicized extra-marital affair, which the New York Times takes a closer look at today.

The Ensign complaint is just one piece of a string of Nevada senatorial-related news today. Tea Party of Nevada candidate Scott Ashjian, who's running for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's seat, paid $5,575 to cover a bounced check and court fees, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports.

"If he had been convicted, the 46-year-old Ashjian would have faced up to 14 years in state prison and would have been banned from running for elected office," the paper reports.

Meanwhile, other Senate candidates leaked parts of their fundraising reports that are due in two weeks. Reid will report raising more than $1.5 million in the first three months of 2010, the Review-Journal reports.. GOP opponents Sue Lowden and Danny Tarkanian will each report raising about one-third of that. Cash-on-hand totals were not released.

Reid Not Best Performing Dem In Latest Poll

If Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman (I) ran on the Democratic ticket for Senate this year instead of Sen. Harry Reid, he would be in better position to win the seat than the current Senate majority leader. In a new PPP poll (Jan. 11-12, 763 RV, MoE +/- 3.6%), Goodman leads former state GOP chair Sue Lowden and ties Danny Tarkanian, while Reid trails both.

Reid has a 36% approval rating, with 58% disapproving of his job performance. President Obama fares better with a 44%/52% approval rating.

Other Dems tested -- in case Reid drops out as Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd did -- were Rep. Shelley Berkley and Secretary of State Ross Miller, who both performed similarly to Reid.

Reid 41 - Lowden 51 - Und 8
Reid 42 - Tarkanian 50 - Und 8

Goodman 42 - Lowden 40 - Und 18
Goodman 41 - Tarkanian 41 - Und 18

Berkley 38 - Lowden 46 - Und 17
Berkley 39 - Tarkanian 47 - Und 14

Miller 34 - Lowden 44 - Und 23
Miller 34 - Tarkanian 45 - Und 22

Tarkanian holds a 10.0-point lead over Reid in the RCP Average, and Lowden leads Reid by 10.7 points.

GOP Pushing Reid To Step Down

The calls for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to step down from his leadership post likely will not end with Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele's comments Sunday on "Meet the Press."

"Whether he steps down today, or I retire him in November, either way he will not be the majority leader in 2011," said Steele.

Although the RNC chairman is facing grumblings within the GOP about his own leadership position because of some of the things he's said -- as well as his new book and the committee's fundraising numbers -- his sentiments yesterday will likely be echoed by other Republican leaders as Congress swings back into action this week (in the House) and next (in the Senate).

National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (Texas) criticized Reid on TV this morning, and his committee pushed the argument in press releases throughout Monday morning -- including digging up Reid's reaction in 2002 to then-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott's infamous comments.

"This is a double standard from Senator Reid, and there's no doubt that voters in Nevada will see through his hypocrisy as he refuses to step down as Majority Leader," said NRSC spokesman Brian Walsh. "Fortunately, Nevadans will finally have an opportunity to retire Harry Reid and his controversial rhetoric for good in November."

Reid's re-election prospects took another hit this weekend as a Mason-Dixon poll revealed he trailed by as much as 10 points to two relatively unknown Republican challengers.

A Rough Weekend for Harry Reid

He still has 10 months before he faces re-election, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid seems to have hit a new low this weekend, on several fronts.

The hot story involves statements attributed to Reid in "Game Change," a new book from Mark Halperin and John Heilemann. Reid is said to have believed that Obama would make a better nominee in the 2008 campaign because, "He was wowed by Obama's oratorical gifts and believed that the country was ready to embrace a black presidential candidate, especially one such as Obama -- a 'light-skinned' African American 'with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.'" The comment was reported late Friday by Marc Ambinder.

Reid apologized this morning for "using such a poor choice of words," and now the White House has issued a statement from the president accepting that apology:

"Harry Reid called me today and apologized for an unfortunate comment reported today. I accepted Harry's apology without question because I've known him for years, I've seen the passionate leadership he's shown on issues of social justice and I know what's in his heart. As far as I am concerned, the book is closed."

All this comes as new polling from Mason Dixon (625 RVs, 1/5-1/7, MoE +/- 4%) in today's Las Vegas Review-Journal shows him at his lowest point in matchups against potential Republican foes. You can see the full breakdown after the jump.

Continue reading "A Rough Weekend for Harry Reid" »

Reid Foe Makes Case For C-SPAN Cameras

Republicans in Washington have been making considerable hay over transparency this week, urging Democrats and the White House to open up any and all final health care deliberations to the C-SPAN cameras as President Obama promised during his campaign.

Now, one of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's potential rivals in Nevada this fall is using this as a campaign issue. Danny Tarkanian, son of longtime UNLV basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian and one of a long list of interested Republican challengers, sends Reid this letter:

Dear Senator Reid,

As you are undoubtedly aware, the American people are clamoring for negotiations on health care reform to be fully open and transparent. Thus far, work on the legislation has been held behind closed doors and in tight secrecy. The American public, and even Members of Congress and United States Senators, have learned the details of the legislation only after it has been voted through. As Majority Leader of the United States Senate, you can change that.

Recently, C-SPAN wrote a letter to Congressional leadership requesting access to the health care negotiations. Granting such a request would unsure the public remains informed on legislation directly affecting them and, in the process, follows through on President Barack Obama's pledge to have ALL health care reform negotiations televised on C-SPAN.

In November, you said transparency would be "one of the guiding principles of health care reform." There is no truer way of accomplishing that goal than allowing C-SPAN - and all media, for that matter, to cover a fully open and transparent conference committee.


Danny Tarkanian

Just a prediction: this won't sway Reid. But it will be interesting to see if this transparency issue builds any steam as Republicans around the country prepare to campaign against the health care legislation.

NV Sen Poll: Unpopular Reid Trailing Lesser-Known Foes

Another poll shows Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid trailing much lesser-known Republican challengers. In the Rasmussen survey (500 LVs, 12/9, +/- 4.5%), the incumbent is stuck at 43 percent in each potential matchup.

General Election Matchups
Lowden 49 (-1 vs. last poll, 9/14)
Reid 43 (+3)
Und 3 (-2)

Tarkanian 49 (-1)
Reid 43 (unch)
Und 2 (-1)

Angle 47 (no trend)
Reid 43
Und 3

Favorable Ratings
Reid 40 / 57
Lowden 46 / 32
Tarkanian 49 / 30
Angle 40 / 37

Forty-four percent of Nevada voters favor the health care plan Reid is shepherding through the Senate, while 54 percent oppose it.

President Obama's approval rating is 46 percent, while 55 percent disapprove. Gov. Jim Gibbons (R) remains unpopular, with 61 percent disapproving of his job performance while 35 percent approve.

NV Sen Poll: Reid's Ads Do Little To Improve Numbers

A new Mason Dixon poll (625 RVs, MoE +/- 4%) for the Las Vegas Review-Journal shows Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D) trailing two potential GOP opponents.

General Election Matchups
Lowden 51 (+2 vs last poll, 10/6-8)
Reid 41 (+2)
Und 8 (-4)

Tarkanian 48 (unch)
Reid 42 (-1)
Und 10 (-1)

The showing should be of concern since this poll shows little movement after Reid hit the airwaves making the case for re-election. "It just shows that Reid has reached a point where people aren't listening to him anymore," Danny Tarkanian consultant Jamie Fisfis tells the Review-Journal.

Former state Republican Party chair Sue Lowden edges Tarkanian, son of the former UNLV hoops coach, in a nine-person primary (six of the candidates polled at just 1 percent or less).

Republican Primary Election Matchup
Lowden 25 (+2)
Tarkanian 24 (+3)
Angle 13 (+4)
Other 5 (+2)
Und 33 (-11)

Favorable Ratings
Reid 38 / 49
Lowden 33 / 13
Tarkanian 32 / 12

Reid Launches First Re-Election Campaign Ads

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who faces a potentially tough race even as Republicans are yet to settle on one challenger, launched the first two television ads of his re-election campaign today. Both are upbeat, one-minute spots that invoke his clout as the Senate's top Democrat in making the case for another term next year.

In "Hard Work," Reid speaks to camera about his humble upbringing, as a narrator notes that Reid is working as Senate leader to "get Nevada's economy back on track." This spot is running in the Reno market.

In "Nevada Jobs," which is running in the Las Vegas market, MGM Mirage CEO James Murren testifies to Reid's efforts to save the City Center project. "There's nobody else who could have done it," he says. The spot ends, as does the first, with the slogan, "Harry Reid: Determination that makes a difference."

Reid raised $2 million in the most recent fundraising period, and has more than $8 million in the bank. Vice President Joe Biden is set to raise money for his former Senate colleague tomorrow in Reno.

NV Gov, Sen Poll: Both Reids Trail

Both Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and his son, Rory Reid, trail in a new Las Vegas Review-Journal/Mason-Dixon poll (Oct. 6-8, 500 RV, MoE +/- 4.5%) The elder Reid once again finds himself behind two Republican Senate challengers, while Rory trails a Republican and potential independent candidate in the race for governor.

Republicans tested for the primary include former state GOP chair Sue Lowden, developer/famous son Danny Tarkanian, and former Assemblywoman Sharron Angle, along with six others who received 1%.

Senate - GOP Primary
Lowden 23
Tarkanian 21
Angle 9
Six Others 1 (each)
Und 44

Senate - General Election
Lowden 49 - Reid 39

Tarkanian 48 - Reid 43

Lowden leads Reid by 7.7 points in the RCP Average, while Tarkanian leads by 5.7 points.

Tested against Rory Reid in the gubernatorial race are former U.S. District Judge Brian Sandoval and Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, a Democrat considering an independent bid.

Sandoval (R) 33
Goodman (I) 33
Reid (D) 25

Menendez: Harry Reid Is Safe

By all indications, Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is up for a challenging re-election in 2010. But Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, says this will not be a repeat of 2004 and he wouldn't bet against the Senate majority leader.

"I don't accept the proposition that he's in trouble," Menendez said during a briefing with reporters on Capitol Hill this afternoon. "At the end of the day, I am convinced that while it has become the new system to go after the majority leader, Harry Reid is not Tom Daschle and this is not South Dakota."

As Senate minority leader in 2004, Daschle lost by 2 points to John Thune, becoming the first Senate party leader to lose an election since 1952. Daschle had trailed by a few points in early, internal GOP polls; Reid so far is following suit in public polling.

The four-term senator has found himself trailing in polls to Sue Lowden, who will step down as state party chairman tomorrow, and Danny Tarkanian, the son of famed UNLV basketball coach, Jerry Tarkanian. Political analyst Charlie Cook has ranked Reid's re-election race as a toss-up.

Calling Reid possibly the "greatest senator" ever in Nevada, Menendez maintains Reid is not in trouble, and noted that there are now more Democrats registered to vote in the state than Republicans.

"The reality is I'm convinced Harry Reid will win that race, and I would not, you know, bet against Harry Reid by any stretch of the imagination," he said.

Reid: Re-Election Prospects Tied to Economy

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) indicated today that his re-election prospects will be looking far better next year once the economy is back on track.

"It appears as though this recession has bottomed out and that change is taking place," Reid said at a press conference today. "Now, we all know that unemployment always lags behind economic recovery. So I feel that Nevada, like the rest of the states in the country, are going next year to see economic recovery."

Reid said Nevada and the country as a whole will begin to feel more positively "once that takes place," and presumably his re-election chances will look better than they do today.

At the press conference, the senator was answering a direct question regarding his re-election and comments that one of his potential GOP opponents, attorney Danny Tarkanian, made regarding the senator not spending much time in his home state.

"The Republicans have a primary next June," said Reid. "At last count there were 10 Republicans enrolled in that primary. I think the people of Nevada know me real well, they know what I've done over the years. ... I have a job to do for the people of Nevada and the people of this country."

Reid is facing such a difficult environment that political handicappers say the race is anyone's game. A Rasmussen automated poll, conducted yesterday of 500 likely voters and released today, finds him trailing Tarkanian by 7 points (50 percent to 43 percent) and Nevada GOP chair Sue Lowden by 10 points (50 percent to 40 percent).

Cook Report Moves Reid Re-Election to Toss-Up

The Cook Political Report moved Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's (D-Nev.) re-election race into the toss-up category today, a not-so-stunning yet seismic shift for the top Democrat in the Senate. Here is the Cook Report reasoning:

Senior Editor Jennifer Duffy analyzes Majority Leader Harry Reid's bid for a fifth term and finds that anemic poll numbers for the incumbent and a deteriorating political environment for Democrats nationally combine to make Reid one of the most vulnerable Democratic incumbents seeking re-election in 2010. And, that's without knowing who Republicans will nominate to challenge him.

Two August polls found Reid trailing two potential GOP challengers, neither with a resume that would appear to make them competitive.

More Bad News for Reid

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has been unable to dig himself out of a pit of poor poll numbers, and the latest survey from Daily Kos/Research 2000 is no different. The four-term Nevada senator trails two potential GOP challengers, Danny Tarkanian, son of former UNLV coach Jerry, and Sue Lowden, who is resigning from her post as chair of the Nevada Republican Party to focus on a bid for Senate.

Just 36% hold a favorable opinion of Reid, while 52% view him unfavorably. Pres. Obama's viewed favorably by 48%, with 41% holding an unfavorable opinion of him. Also, less than three-fourths believe Obama was born in the U.S., and 52% favor a public option being included in federal health care reform.

Lowden 44
Reid 41
Und 15

Tarkanian 45
Reid 40
Und 15

Party Like It's 2004

Jon Ralston got his hands on a GOP direct mail piece urging Republicans to rally around the cause of defeating Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid like they did in 2004 with then-Minority Leader Tom Daschle.

The liberal media never thought it would happen. Now we have a chance to put another out-of-touch Democrat leader of the Senate, Harry Reid, out on the street. The liberal media once again believes it can't happen.

The mail piece refers recipients to, a project of Nevada conservative activist Chuck Muth and former Michigan GOP chair Saul Anuzis.

NV SEN: Another Potential Reid Challenger Passes

The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza reports today that Rep. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) has decided against running for the U.S. Senate against the Majority Leader, Harry Reid.

Heller, who was elected to the vast 2nd district in 2006, called National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (Texas) earlier today to pass on his decision.

Heller turned down the race despite internal Republican polling -- conducted by the Tarrance Group -- that showed him leading Reid by nine points. Many Republicans believe that Heller would have made the race had it not been for the political implosion of Nevada Sen. John Ensign (R).

What would have made Heller a particularly appealing candidate is that, as a former secretary of state, he has won statewide elections already. While Ensign says he plans to run in 2012, however, it seems he may be making other Republicans think twice about running sooner.

The RCP Blog has another poll that shows Reid could be vulnerable in his re-election bid, trailing to Nevada Republican Party chairwoman Sue Lowden. She has not entered the race, however.

Ensign's Approval Rating Sinks

Nevada Sen. John Ensign's (R) approval ratings have declined dramatically since last month, when he revealed an extramarital affair he had with a former campaign staffer.

A new Mason-Dixon survey conducted for the Las Vegas Review-Journal finds 31 percent now approve of the job Ensign is doing in the Senate (July 14-15, 400 RV, MoE +/- 5%). That's an 8-point drop since the previous survey in mid-June, just days after Ensign made the announcement, and a 22-point drop since before the affair was made public.

Further information about the affair emerged this month, including that Ensign's parents gave $96,000 to the family of his former mistress.

"Ensign took about a 10-point hit with this latest round of revelations," Mason-Dixon pollster Brad Coker told the Review-Journal. "I think if another shoe drops, and he takes another 10 points' damage, that's probably the end of the line."

Still, 54 percent continue to say Ensign should not resign, while one-third (34 percent) now think he should -- including a quarter of Republicans. On the second-term senator's side is the fact that he does not come up for re-election until 2012 -- 45 percent think he should seek re-election, while 43 percent think he should not.

Poll: Ensign Approval Rating Dropping

Sen. John Ensign's approval rating has dropped 14 points from last month -- before his nine-month extramarital affair was revealed -- a new Las Vegas Review-Journal/Mason-Dixon survey finds (June 18-19, 625 RV, MoE +/- 4%). With a 39% approval rating, Ensign's disapproval rating also increased to 37%, up 19 points from last month.

Still, 62% of voters think Ensign should not resign from the Senate, and his approval rating remains higher than that of other Nevada politicians -- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (34%) and Republican Gov. Jim Gibbons (10%), both of whom are up for re-election next year.

Ensign hastily announced the affair a week ago, and since then more details have leaked out -- such as that Cindy Hampton, an aide at the time of the affair, got a significant pay raise after the affair began. "About a third of those polled considered that a very serious concern, while another third called it somewhat serious, for a total of two-thirds viewing the salary increases as a serious matter," LVRG's Ball writes.

Noting Sen. David Vitter's (R-La.) path back from a sex scandal and Ensign's re-election not coming for another three years, Mason-Dixon pollster Brad Coker said: "If Vitter could bounce back in a much more socially conservative state than Nevada, Ensign has at least a 50-50 shot at it."

GOP Loses Leading Voice in Ensign

The announcement yesterday by Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) that he had an extramarital affair and today's news that Senate leadership has removed him as head of the Republican Policy Committee (the No. 4 slot on the totem pole) means the Republican Party has lost a leading voice in its efforts to deride Democratic policies and promote its own.

Ensign led a credible, yet unsuccessful, effort as head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee during the 2008 election cycle, and in this Congress has been at the forefront of several policy debates. Perhaps his biggest victory of the year was the gun amendment Ensign added on to the D.C. Voting Rights bill, which ultimately led to its demise in the House of Representatives.

Now in his second term representing a state increasingly important to presidential elections, Ensign was twice elected with 55 percent of the vote -- in 2000 and 2006 -- and regularly carries far better approval ratings than his Nevada counterpart, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). A survey released last month found Ensign with a 53 percent approval rating compared to Reid's 38 percent.

Whether Ensign was preparing for a presidential bid or not, his fall from grace seems just as far.

NV Senate Poll: Poor Numbers for Reid

Just 35% of Nevada voters say they would vote to re-elect Sen. Harry Reid (D), according to a new Las Vegas Review-Journal poll conducted by Mason-Dixon (May 12-14, 625 RV, MoE +/- 4%). Worse yet, 45% said they would vote to replace him, while 17% said they would consider voting for him.

Reid's favorability rating (38%) is 17 points lower than Obama's, while 50% had an unfavorable view of him -- 20 points higher than Obama. Sen. John Ensign (R) has a 53%/18% favorability rating.