NV-Sen: Huge Performance Difference Between Ensign, Heller

Public Policy Polling (1/3-5, Nevada voters):

Shelley Berkley (D): 45

John Ensign (R-inc): 42

Undecided: 13

Oscar Goodman (D): 45

John Ensign (R-inc): 35

Undecided: 20

Catherine Cortez Masto (D): 44

John Ensign (R-inc): 42

Undecided: 14

Ross Miller (D): 40

John Ensign (R-inc): 39

Undecided: 21

Shelley Berkley (D): 38

Dean Heller (R): 51

Undecided: 11

Oscar Goodman (D): 38

Dean Heller (R): 45

Undecided: 16

Catherine Cortez Masto (D): 37

Dean Heller (R): 46

Undecided: 16

Ross Miller (D): 34

Dean Heller (R): 46

Undecided: 21

(MoE: ±3.2%)

Want to make sure Democrats win the 2012 Senate race in Nevada? Find a way to make sure that John Ensign is the GOP nominee. Conversely, want to make sure Democrats lose? Find a way to make sure that Dean Heller is the nominee. At least that’s the initial takeaway from today’s PPP poll. The general electorate seems to loathe Ensign, giving him 35/50 approvals (way below those of Harry Reid, who’s at 46/50), and 56% say he shouldn’t run again in 2012 (compared to 29% who say he should). Heller, by contrast, has 46/23 favorables; the only Dem who competes with that is Oscar Goodman, at 45/21. Shelley Berkley, generally thought to be the Dems’ strongest contender here, has the narrowest fave/unfave spread of any Dem, at only 34/29.

You might remember that in November PPP came out with a poll of the GOP primary, showing Ensign surprisingly far ahead of Heller (and Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki as well), 45-37. So, we might be able to hope for Ensign salvaging his primary (and thus boosting Dem hopes for the general). The primary, of course, still has several ways to not happen… Heller has sent many a conflicted message, happy with his new committee assignments in the House, but on the other hand, many with their finger on the local political pulse seem sure that Ensign won’t even bother trying to run. Jon Ralston, in fact, is out with another piece today predicting just that; his scenario is that midway through the year Ensign is likely to announce he won’t run again, Heller will run to replace him, and the biggest fireworks will be in the NV-02 primary to replace Heller, potentially pitting Krolicki against Sharron Angle.

48 thoughts on “NV-Sen: Huge Performance Difference Between Ensign, Heller”

  1. Would be Ensign resigns (those words look odd next to each other) sometime this year.  Heller is appointed by Sandoval and the toss-up race becomes Likely R with Heller has the incumbent.

    Did I see that there would be a different way of filling NV-02 than a special election if it’s open?

  2. Make sure Democrats lose. He makes it difficult but it is far from impossible. Incidentally, credit where it is due to Nevada Republicans in comparison to their Louisiana brethren.

  3. Goodman is seriously considering a bid, is there? I know he bolted the party recently, but he was a rumored gubernatorial candidate nonetheless. Looks like Goodman would not only win by the largest margin of any Dem opponent to Ensign, but he’d still represent our best shot if (a) Ensign resigns/retires or (b) Ensign is defeated by Heller or someone else in the primary. Either way, I had a feeling Berkley would be less popular than some were predicting.

  4. There is though the known polling problems in Nevada, so if Ensign is trailing  only slightly means that he’s down big and that Heller is ahead but not by this big of a margin, unless PPP fixed their (and others’) problems in Nevada which they don’t mention as having been done, maybe, maybe not.

  5. Of course, there is a difference in name recognition right now.

    I think Sen. Reid would be happy to serve with either Reps. Heller or Berkley, so I don’t expect him to intervene much here.

  6. I know for a fact the two are quite close, not to say one would automatically defer to the other, but It is possible they have discussed between them the best possible course for both of their careers.

    I think if Ensign does not retire than Heller will run to take him out, he has tons of pressure on him in the state and in DC (especially from the NRSC) to keep the seat in the GOP column.

    However, that said, I don’t hink Heller is unhappy in the house and doesn’t yern for a Senate seat. Krolicki however is probably chomping on the bit to prove the allegations against him were totally bogus and he still has Star Power, since he’s blocked from running for governor until 2018 it makes sense for him to run for Senate.

    I don’t think Krolicki challenges Ensign in a primary, too much “your laundry is dirtier than my laundry” message problems, it will be much easier for Mr. Squeeky Clean Boyscout Heller to take down Ensign.

  7. I see all Democrats except one highly unlikely larger than life figure (whose poll numbers would probably come down to earth the second he got in) within the margin of error against a Republican whose reputation has been thoroughly trashed.

    Generic Democrat is 50-50 versus Ensign.  This tells me Ensign can still win.  Particularly in a negative campaign where if he can do what Reid did to Angle and make the campaign about his opponent rather than his unpopular health.

    Of course it’s still two years out and the Democratic label is at a historic low in popularity and may well recover.

  8. 1. Why is Heller so popular? Nevada seems to be turning blue, so it makes sense that a moderate Republican like Heller would be far more acceptable than someone much more extreme, but is there anything special about him? Are some of his strong numbers simply the result of him being more well known?

    2. Is someone like Shelley Berkeley headed for a real uphill climb if she wants the seat, or is there anything particularly daunting about it compared to any other similar race?

    3. What are the chances that the Republicans fail to keep Ensign from running, if he decides he wants it?

    4. What are the chances that everyone’s favorite extremist, Sharon Angle, decides to run and the chances that the Republicans can’t keep her from winning, even if they badly want to do so?  

  9. Even if somehow Ensign is forced out and Heller becomes the Republican nominee.If you look at the crosstabs all of the potential Democratic contenders really are not that well known, theres plenty of room for them to grow. Nevada’s becoming more Democratic. I remember how surprised I was by how much Obama won it by and how well Reid did,even making it to 50%. And also of course there’s presidential turnout.

  10. Everyone at DailyKos speaks with such certitude that Olympia Snowe will get tea-bagged, but with LePage’s endorsement, the moderate nature of Maine Republicans, and the absence of a high-profile opponent, I’m more bullish on her reelection prospects than most. Same goes for Scott Brown. Massachusetts is too liberal for a statewide tea-bagging and Brown is perhaps personally popular enough to survive the general. It will be interesting to see if that insurgent conservative wins the state RNC chairmanship, though. That could alter the dynamic of the primary. Also, I think Richard Lugar will be safe by virtue of Indiana’s open primary. He just needs to worry about turning out the independents.

    Ensign, on the other hand, is damaged goods. And, if that last PPP poll is to be believed, Nevada Republicans still like him. If he can avoid serious primary opposition, or somehow survive the character barrages he’s sure to encounter in a primary that will include more than a few evangelicals, he’s toast in November. I know a lot of liberals said this about David Vitter, but I put slightly more faith in Nevada than Louisiana to do the right thing.  

  11. Does anyone know the trend of Nevada politically over the past 10 years?  Is it staying static as a swing state or is it trending to the left?  Obviously the massive population growth in Clark county helps the Democrats.

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