Sen. John Ensign said Monday that heeding calls for his resignation would make it harder for Republicans to unseat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid next year.
Ensign acknowledged in June having an affair with a former member of his campaign staff. The two-term GOP senator from Nevada has made it clear he intends to serve out his term, which extends through 2012. But during a Monday morning radio show in Las Vegas, Ensign added Reid's name to his list of reasons for staying on.
The senator said that leaving office meant Nevada voters would have a second Senate race to deal with in 2010, taking some of the attention off Reid, who is struggling in the polls. Ensign also said that a second race would split GOP resources in Nevada, which would end up hurting "the conservative cause."
Ensign said he has talked with some GOP candidates who want him to help with their campaigns, though he did not mention the candidates by name. He was clearly mindful that Democrats are prepared to criticize any of the GOP candidates who may appear with him on the campaign circuit.
"I want to be helpful without being hurtful," he told KXNT radio during an hour-long appearance.