John Ensign's poll numbers indicate a pretty high degree of vulnerability in 2012. But polls we conducted in the state both this month and in January also suggest that defeating Ensign won't just be a slam dunk for Democrats.
Ensign has poor approval numbers with only 38% of Nevadans giving him good marks while 47% rate his job performance unfavorably. There are more Republicans (24%) who disapprove of him than there are Democrats (16%) who approve, and independents split against him by a 38/46 margin as well. There hasn't been much change in feelings about Ensign over the course of 2010. In January his approval came down at 38/44.
Nevadans say they're inclined to replace Ensign with a Democrat in 2012, but only by a 45-43 margin. 76% of Republicans say they'd stick with him, 74% of Democrats say they'd get rid of him, and independents lean toward swapping Ensign out for a Democrat as well by a 46-41 margin.
What gets complicated for the Democrats though is figuring out who that candidate is. We've now tested two statewide officials and both of the party's House members against Ensign, and all of them trail him by a healthy margin. There doesn't seem to be a slam dunk candidate whose entry would automatically spell the end of Ensign's tenure. On this particular poll Ensign led Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto 48-38 and Congresswoman Dina Titus 51-41. Our January poll found him up 47-36 on Secretary of State Ross Miller and 49-40 on Congresswoman Shelley Berkley.
That's not to say none of these folks could end up being strong candidates against Ensign, but they'd start out behind. The bottom line is that Ensign is pretty vulnerable but Democrats are going to have to work for it.
Full results here