A Timely Hit On Ensign

Residents of Las Vegas and Reno will start seeing new TV ads today criticizing Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) for his votes against the public option in committee.

The progressive coalition Health Care for America Now! has announced a $100,000 media buy to run its ad for a week, after Ensign voted "no" to the public option last week in the Senate Finance Committee's (ongoing) markup of health reform legislation.

One might wonder: what's the point of pressuring a GOP senator everyone knows will vote against the public option, and probably against any Democratic plan, on the Senate floor--one who's not up for reelection until 2012?

Ensign's poll numbers dropped soon after news of his affair broke, and a New York Times story recently reported more questionable activity--help Ensign gave to the husband of his liaison--so the former National Republican Senatorial Committee chairman could be vulnerable down the road.

But in this case, HCAN might be getting twice its money's worth: Nevada's other senator, Harry Reid (D), is predicted to face a tough reelection battle in 2010--a race rated as a "toss-up" by the Cook Political Report--and as Senate majority leader, he'll face the daunting task of shepherding a viable health care bill through the Senate floor, and with it, lots of pressure to compromise. From the liberal perspective, the less of that pressure, the better. A public option is supported by Nevadans, according to Research 2000--and stirring that stew a little bit couldn't hurt.

HCAN says it wanted to pick a Republican on the Senate Finance Committee to make an example of, and that it decided on Ensign even before the latest indiscretions broke (which made him an even riper target). But with this ad, HCAN might be getting the benefit of a double dip.