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John Ensign: Resignation would hurt GOP, shift focus from ousting Harry Reid

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Sen. John Ensign speaks with KXNT-AM’s Alan Stock Monday morning.

Updated Monday, Nov. 30, 2009 | 9:20 a.m.

WASHINGTON – Republican Sen. John Ensign gives his first, full-length interview this morning since disclosing an affair last summer with a staffer, and says he is getting Republican requests to campaign in 2010, has no plans to resign and cannot understand the health care bill as it is written.

About the affair, Ensign said, “It’s something I deeply regret and wish I wouldn’t have done.”

He reiterated previous terrain -- that he made some calls to help the woman’s husband, Doug Hampton, one of his top aides at the time, land another job, but said he did nothing wrong and would comply with any federal investigations.

As for the belief that Ensign is hurting the embattled Republican Party in Nevada – Republican Rep. Dean Heller has said part of his decision not to challenge Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was because Ensign would be sidelined – the senator, who is not up for re-election, may indeed show up on the trail for Republican candidates.

“They want me involved in their campaigns,” Ensign said. “I want to be helpful, not hurtful.”

To those who have called for Ensign’s resignation, including the show's host, the senator reminds that his successor would be required to run for re-election in 2010 at a time when Republicans in the state are focused on ousting Reid.

“That takes the attention off Senator Reid,” Ensign said. “You have a splitting of the resources and I believe that hurts the Republican cause.”

Ensign went on to say that Republicans need to protect the Senate seats they now have.

“People need to think about that,” he said. “To put another seat in play takes resources.”

Ensign was on for an hour at KXNT-AM with Alan Stock (and online at kxnt.com) and moved on to policy issues, saying Reid’s health care bill should be killed. A poll of listeners showed 68 percent want him to discuss health care, compared to 3 percent who want him to discuss the fallout from his affair.

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