Nevada and Las Vegas in particular has become the epicenter of the political battle between the Tea Party and the Republican Party versus Nevada Senator Harry Reid and President Obama. With the Republicans still stinging from the defeat of Reid challenger Sharron Angle, a Tea Party favorite, the gloves are coming off to dismantle Reid and his policies. The rallying cry “Stop Obama” is being heard from the Las Vegas strip to the halls of Carson City.
The major crisis that faces the Republicans is who they can present as a credible challenger to the Democratic machine.
Senate Republican John Ensign is one such dilemma. The Las Vegas Senator since 1994 who is embroiled in a scandalous extra martial affair, allegations of payoffs and influence peddling is coming up for reelection and his success is in doubt. Investigated by the FBI and the Senate Ethics Committee and ranked one of the 15 Most Corrupt members of Congress by the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Government, Ensign is becoming increasingly shunned by his fellow Republicans as re-election time nears. Ensign also has an approval rating among voters at a 48% disapproval level. However, with the contentious attitude of voters, the Republicans want to formulate a plan to win in 2012 and that may not include those candidates who have a lot of excess baggage to defend. Once considered a rising star in the Republican Party, Ensign may now have let Nevada down at the most important time in local Nevada politics. In addition, the hypocrisy Ensign has to live with is his 1998 statements against Democratic President Bill Clinton. When Clinton’s affair with a White House intern was revealed, Ensign said, “He sent a taxpayer paid staffer out to lie for him, that is misuse of office. He has no credibility left.” Now those words are coming home to haunt Ensign himself.
In the wings is Representative Dean Heller, a Republican of good standing that is prepared to run against Ensign should he decide to run for re-election. Heller is popular among the party faithful and rumors have it that he will be backed by the Republican machine instead of the incumbent Ensign.
The Heller solution has another obstacle, however, because also waiting in the wings is the recently defeated and sometimes wacky Angle who says she will not go away. The Tea Party darling insists she will be the next Republican challenger whether the party likes it or not. The Las Vegas media was not kind to Angle in the last race so as the election period gets closer and investigations continue, the contentious political scene is Las Vegas will turn white hot.