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Ensign receives round of applause (for apologizing, not affair)

By Jimmy Orr / June 23, 2009

Disgraced Nevada Senator John Ensign is back in Washington, DC and offered a full-fledged mea culpa today at a GOP policy lunch. Republican attendees were quick to offer support for the Republican senator.

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It really would signal the GOP is way out of touch had they given disgraced Nevada Senator John Ensign a standing ovation for having an affair. He did receive much applause today from Republican senators. But it was due to his apologies for the affair -- not the affair itself.

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Ensign, who last week admitted having a 10-month fling with a former staffer, spoke at a GOP policy lunch this afternoon and offered up a two-minute mea culpa for his infidelities which only added more PR problems to a party overrun with troubles.

Ensign was a regular Mark Sanford in his eluding skills. Much as the Governor of South Carolina ditched his security detail and family to hide out for a few days on the Appalachian Trail, Ensign took great steps to avoid the media taking, as the Washington Post reported, "circuitous routes to and from the luncheon."

Although Ensign won't talk to the media, his supporters did -- all offering their encouragement.

"He expressed himself sincerely and candidly,” Sen. Mel Martinez (R) of Florida said. "It’s time to move on, and we wish him the best."

Sen. Dick Lugar (R) of Indiana said Ensign "apologized to everyone who had been hurt, indicated that he had certain deficiencies in his own character and outlook and was going to make substantial improvements."

Even Majority Leader Harry Reid (D) of Nevada offered some love.

“Everyone knows that Senator Ensign and I had a very difficult race in 1998. We have become friends since then,” Reid said. “I'm concerned about his family, and I hope he works his way through this… As far as me commenting on any more, I think I've said all I plan to say on Senator Ensign today.”

You could call Ensign's talk today predictable as every embattled Republican senator in the past year has used this venue to express sorrow for their respective scandals, including Sen. David Vitter (Louisiana) and former Sens. Ted Stevens (Alaska) and Larry Craig (Idaho).

Not surprisingly, those on the left are salivating at the latest GOP foible. EyesOnObama, a left-leaning site, recounted the Republican slippage in Nevada in a column today, but said it is indicative of a wholesale western shake-up.

"The GOP is having a rough stint in Nevada, but that result is hardly surprising," they write. "Rising popularity of Democrats in the western region (including other states like New Mexico and Arizona), has been compounded by scandal-plagued Nevada Republicans. The result could be a long-term dominance in the Silver State that Democrats have never really known. And for Republicans, it's one more state in which they can't afford to lose their foothold. And yet, they seem to be slipping."

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