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GOP's Ensign to announce retirement

From NBC’s Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Ken Strickland
Republican Sen. John Ensign will hold a news conference at 3pm ET in Nevada to discuss "his political future," his office announced today

*** UPDATE *** NBC News confirms that Ensign will announce his retirement from the Senate this afternoon. He will finish out the rest of his term but will not seek re-election, said a GOP source with knowledge of the decision.

Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call reports that the scandal-encumbered Ensign is expected to announce his retirement. A spokeswoman for the senator told NBC News, "I have no further details to release at this time."

Retirement seems like a good bet: Ensign is up for re-election next year, and he's viewed as the GOP's most vulnerable Senate incumbent.

Why? His political standing tanked after it was revealed he had an affair with a staffer whose husband was a top Ensign aide. The husband alleged that Ensign promised to set him up as a lobbyist after he confronted the senator about the affair. Moreover, it also was revealed that Ensign's parents made a $96,000 payment to the couple.

Democrats and Republicans have been eyeing Ensign's seat before today's news. One Republican to watch is Rep. Dean Heller. A Democrat to watch is Rep. Shelley Berkley.