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Politics

Cornyn Leaves Ensign Hanging

February 15, 2011

National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn, (R-Texas) offered no encouragement to Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) Tuesday -- in the wake of a poll showing Ensign badly trailing potential primary opponent Rep. Dean Heller (R-Nev.).

It's the latest hint directed towards the scandal-plagued Ensign that top Senate Republicans would prefer he step aside.

"The NRSC Chairman is selected by the Republican Conference, and I work with the Republican Conference, meaning all the incumbents," Cornyn said. "I would say I learned some important lessons the last cycle, and the most important lesson is the nominee will be chosen by the primary voters in Nevada and nobody else. And so we'll await their judgment."

Asked if there is a point at which Ensign should announce he will not seek reelection if his weak poll numbers -- dragged down by his admission of an extramarital affair with a former aide and allegations of ethics violations amid Ensign's efforts keep the affair quiet -- Cornyn demurred.

"I really think that is a question that would probably be better directed to him," Cornyn said.

While the NRSC has traditionally backed GOP incumbents in primaries, Cornyn notably did not offer a whiff of support for Ensign, himself a former NRSC Chair, when asked about the poll.

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