NV-Sen: John Ensign vs. Jack Carter

Long considered a sure thing for re-election, Sen. John Ensign (R.-Nev.) is now clearly in a competitive race for a second term. Ensign faces Democrat Jack Carter, son of former President Jimmy Carter, in a contest that is increasingly becoming a cause for the left.

At 59, Jack Carter is everything the liberal DailyKos Internet site crowd loves. He’s pro-abortion, for a guest-worker program for illegal immigrants and has called for a withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Iraq within six months. To call him the candidate of the “DailyKos crowd” is not a reach at all: His daughter Sarah Carter writes a blog for DailyKos on a regular basis.

Ensign has chosen to ignore Carter’s liberal credentials most of the time and instead discuss his own record. In Ensign’s words: “I’ll let Jack Carter focus on the differences in the race. What’s important is that people know what I’ve done the last six years and what I will do in the next six years.”

Ensign is a fervent believer in fiscally responsible government, and—defying both the leadership of his party and President—he opposed the new Medicare prescription-drug entitlement and the costly 2002 farm bill. In addition, the Nevadan opposed the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill. Overall, Ensign sports a lifetime rating of 94% from the American Conservative Union and an “A” grade from the National Taxpayers’ Union.

For all the recent media attention Carter has been receiving, he faces a political “X-factor”—one not discussed in a public way but certainly a topic of “over-the-fence” gossip. Born in New London, Conn. (where his father was stationed at the submarine base while in the Navy), and raised in Georgia, lawyer-businessman Carter has lived in Nevada only since 2003. Although modern migration into the Silver State has been robust and quite a few residents have lived there less than two years, they are not running for U.S. senator. Ensign, who has lived in Nevada since childhood, does not brand Jack Carter an opportunist, but nonetheless recognizes the Democrat’s shallow roots in his state as a potent campaign issue. “I know it’s important to the people of Nevada,” he says. “I hear about it a whole lot.”

All things considered, the danger of a “Sen. Jack Carter (D.-Nev.)” may appear remote to conservatives nationwide, but they cannot take John Ensign’s re-election for granted.