In it, but not of it. TPM DC

The folks at Gawker have raised an interesting idea in the John Ensign scandal: Did the housing crisis indirectly trigger Ensign's eventual admission of his affair with a former campaign staffer?

The key facts here are that Ensign's reported former mistress was Cynthia Hampton, whose husband Douglas Hampton is a former top Ensign staffer. The Hamptons in turn had taken out a $1.2 million mortgage in 2006, on what is clearly a very swank house in Las Vegas: Five bedrooms, five full bathrooms and one half-bathroom, three fireplaces, a pool and a spa. The net taxes on the House last year were $8,466.41.

But financial disclosures also show that the Hamptons are not wealthy people. And Douglas Hampton had reportedly been asking Ensign for money, which led to Ensign's public admission.

Another key piece of info: Nevada has had the single-worst percentage drop in home prices in the midst of the housing crisis. It's a rough market out there.

We were unable to contact the Hamptons for comment.

Sen. John Ensign's (R-NV) Washington office appears to be in lockdown mode, following his admission yesterday of an extra-marital affair.

A phone call to his Washington office will get the caller forwarded straight to a voicemail box -- which is in fact full, thus disconnecting the caller.

This only goes for his Washington office, though, not the state offices. A call placed to his Las Vegas office was in fact answered by a human being.

A new survey of North Carolina from Public Policy Polling (D) is a further indication that Republican Sen. Richard Burr is vulnerable going into his 2010 re-election battle, trailing a generic Democrat.

The numbers: Generic Dem 41%, Burr 38%, with a ±3.5% margin of error. As for an actual Democrat, the Dems recently struck out on recruitment when popular state Attorney General Roy Cooper announced he wasn't running, and no big names have yet popped up to make the race.

"With Burr's numbers much more dire than Elizabeth Dole's at this point two years ago it's a wonder prominent Democrats aren't fighting for the opportunity to run for this seat," PPP president Dean Debnam says in the analysis. "The current crop of Democratic leaders in the state just isn't as ambitious as in most places."

Interestingly, a PPP survey from a few weeks ago showed Burr ahead of several potential Dem candidates who were given as genuine names. So it's quite intriguing that the generic Democrat has a narrow lead.

The Las Vegas Sun points out that Sen. John Ensign's (R-NV) sex scandal could be yet another problem for the state GOP in Nevada -- who currently lack any real leaders due to other scandals and lousy recent elections.

For example, Gov. Jim Gibbons is currently going through a messy divorce, and is one of the most unpopular governors in the country according to polls.

In addition, Ensign's record as a strong social conservative could damage him. "The problem is, he's another one of these Bible-thumping Republicans," said an anonymous Republican operative, who added: "When you take the social conservative banner, there's a higher level of scrutiny on these kinds of things."

House Passes War Funding Bill Over GOP And Left-Wing Dem Opposition The House of Representatives passed the $106 billion funding bill for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, by a 226-202 margin. The roll call vote shows that only five Republicans voted in favor -- due to a GOP effort to derail the bill over the inclusion of money for the International Monetary Fund -- along with 32 Democrats voting No, on the grounds that the bill did not do enough to end the wars.

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama will meet with financial regulators at 11:40 a.m. ET. At 12:50 p.m. ET, he will deliver remarks laying out a comprehensive regulatory reform plan. At 2 p.m. ET, he will meet with Sec. of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan. At 5:45 p.m. ET, he will deliver remarks and sign a Presidential Memorandum to grant benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees.

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Sen. John Ensign (R-NV), who had been considering a 2012 presidential campaign, has now admitted to an extra-marital affair, and will hold a press conference later today in Nevada to explain it further.

Chris Cillizza reports that the affair took place between December 2007 and August 2008, with a woman who worked for Ensign's re-election campaign and his Battle Born leadership PAC. The Associated Press reports that the woman was married to one of Ensign's Senate staffers.

Ensign had recently travelled to Iowa, to address an audience of conservative activists.

Late Update: Ensign's wife Darlene has also released a statement: "Since we found out last year we have worked through the situation and we have come to a reconciliation. This has been difficult on both families. With the help of our family and close friends our marriage has become stronger."

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), one of the most staunchly conservative members of the Senate, officially rolled out his endorsement today of Marco Rubio in the 2010 Florida Senate race -- going against the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the rest of the GOP leadership, who are supporting the more moderate Gov. Charlie Crist.

DeMint said at a Washington press conference, alongside Rubio, that he was "convinced" the conservative insurgent candidate can beat Crist, who currently has a huge lead in all the polls. DeMint also said that he hoped his announcement will encourage other conservatives to back Rubio. "I don't think there's been any effort by the leadership to intimate anyone one way or another, I certainly haven't felt," said DeMint, "so I think you'll see some senators, and I know some House members, jumping in behind Marco."

The stimulus program is expected to be a major issue in this primary -- or at least it will be, if Rubio, a former Florida state House Speaker, has anything to say about it. Crist broke with the overwhelming majority of Republicans to support the bill, while Rubio remains firmly against it.

In an interview with Bloomberg News, President Obama warned that the unemployment rate will likely reach 10% this year, before the economy turns back around.

"What you've seen is that the pace of job loss has slowed," said Obama. "The economy is going to turn around, but as you know, jobs are a lagging indicator and we've got to produce 150,000 jobs every month just to keep pace, just to flatten this out."

As The Hill reported late last night, House Republicans plan to vote as a bloc against the Iraq-Afghanistan war funding bill, due to included funding for the International Monetary Fund. Obviously, this is a big change for the party that routinely attacked then-Sen. Obama in last year's campaign for allegedly voting to de-fund the troops when he voted against a funding bill that didn't include a timetable for withdrawal.

In fact, check out this Town Hall column by House Republican Leader John Boehner, from April 2008:

But there is a clear distinction between saying you support the troops and backing up those claims with genuine action. Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) once said "we shouldn't play chicken with our troops" when it comes to funding our troops in harm's way, and his colleague Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) urged General Petraeus at the start of the surge to request "every possible piece of equipment and resource necessary" to keep our troops safe. These words turned into little more than empty rhetoric when both proceeded to vote against funding our troops last year.

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The Republican Governor's Association has a new ad in this year's New Jersey gubernatorial race, where Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine currently trails Republican former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie in all the polls. The ad has a piece of rhetoric we haven't usually heard from the GOP -- attacking Corzine for being from Wall Street:



"Wall Street banker Jon Corzine told us he'd bring jobs to New Jersey," the announcer says. "Hello! Unemployment's up 73%, and our business climate ranks among the worst in the nation."

Corzine was chairman of Goldman Sachs from 1994 through 1998, and then went into politics after he was forced out of the company's leadership. Obviously, Wall Street's reputation these days is nowhere near what it was back then.

This continues an interesting pattern we saw earlier this year in the NY-20 special election -- with the Republicans taking the unconventional, populist approach of attacking the Democrat as an out-of-touch fat cat.

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