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Nevada Sen. John Ensign's popularity plummets after affair disclosure

Nevada Sen. John Ensign's popularity took a drubbing last week after he admitted to an extramarital affair with a former staffer:

A poll published Sunday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal showed his favorable rating plunging from 53% in May to 39%. Ouch.

Almost two-thirds of Nevadans polled, however, said the Republican senator should not resign. And even after a week of stories about his resignation from a Senate GOP leadership post, his mistress' pay doubling during the affair and the woman's husband begging Fox News to expose the relationship, Ensign still remains more popular than several prominent Nevada politicians.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s favorable rating: 34%. Republican Gov. Jim Gibbons: 10%.

Keep in mind, though, that it's unlikely the Ensign scandal has petered out. Questions remain about Cynthia and her husband Doug Hampton’s departure from Ensign’s offices -- including a reported severance payment to Cynthia Hampton from Ensign’s own pocket -- and why Ensign helped Doug Hampton land two jobs afterward.

And what to make of claims from Ensign’s camp that the Hamptons, via an attorney, “made exorbitant demands for cash and other financial benefits?” A Washington watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics, said today it plans to file an ethics complaint in hopes of getting to the bottom of things.

Another thing to ponder, courtesy of blogger and alt-weekly editor Steve Sebelius: If this scandal got muddy enough that Ensign resigned, Nevada law allows Gibbons to appoint a replacement. “And further what the state Constitution doesn’t appear to prohibit?” Sebelius writes. “It doesn’t appear to prohibit the governor from appointing himself to the vacant Senate seat!”

-- Ashley Powers

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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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