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The Feingold Watch Continues

Watch­ing Democ­rats pine over the polit­i­cal future of for­mer Sen. Russ Fein­gold is a bit like watch­ing that mem­ber of a mar­ried cou­ple who liked your spouse’s sister’s ex and still wants to hang with him after the divorce is final.  (Your bet­ter half?  She wants noth­ing to do with him anymore.)

You know, that buddy who goes to you, “Man, I know Reg­gie cheated on Gloria’s sis­ter Mon­ica, but does that mean I have to stop hang­ing with him?  He was fun at poker night!”

Wis­con­sin con­ser­v­a­tives are glad the state finally cut the cord with the for­mer junior sen­a­tor.  Lib­er­als on the other hand — espe­cially those in the Isth­mus — are still clam­or­ing for the guy.  First it was in 2011 dur­ing the Siege of the Capi­tol, then in 2012 it was the Recall.  Ever since then, “St. Russ” has been the stan­dard answer for every ill-informed lib­eral who looks at the Demo­c­ra­tic bench and real­izes the party’s future is so decrepit, they might as well be play­ing in the Rookie Leagues.

Need a can­di­date for gov­er­nor in 2014: Recruit Russ!

Need a can­di­date for attor­ney gen­eral: Recruit Russ! (Give it time…)

Need a can­di­date for U.S. Sen­ate in 2016: Recruit Russ!

Need a can­di­date for Dog­catcher: Recruit Russ!

In all like­li­hood, Fein­gold will spend the next two years in Africa if the report of the Spe­cial Envoy job inside the Obama Admin­is­tra­tion holds up.  (Though given his speak­ing out against the recent NSA news, who knows if that offer is still on the table?)

What he’s going to do in 2016 has always been the mat­ter of intrigue.

Some folks in DC think he ought to run for Pres­i­dent. Jen­nifer Rubin over at the Wash­ing­ton Post has an inter­est­ing analy­sis say­ing that he’d be younger than both Hillary Clin­ton and Joe Biden and with­out a run by New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo, he could be the “Liberal’s Lib­eral” in a field which could be one of the old­est in Demo­c­ra­tic Party history.

Most insid­ers I’ve spo­ken with and know say that Russ wants the rematch in 2016.  (If he doesn’t run, La Crosse Con­gress­man Ron Kind will; though why Kind con­tin­ues to keep bow­ing to party elders puz­zles me.)  He’s still pissed about los­ing in 2010.  His ego hasn’t taken the loss well and despite finally earn­ing real money for the first time in his life, he likes being called “Sen­a­tor.”  He misses the perks.  He misses D.C.  He misses being a pim­ple in the Sen­ate Demo­c­ra­tic leadership’s ass and on and on.

Jack Craver over at the Cap Times reported on this after last weekend’s DPW State Con­ven­tion and offered this analy­sis on the options before Fein­gold.  I’ll fisk at the parts requir­ing them as such.

Fur­ther­more, there are a num­ber of rea­sons why Fein­gold would have a bet­ter shot at win­ning back his Sen­ate seat than win­ning the governorship.

First, John­son, despite his per­sonal wealth, is not likely to enjoy a great finan­cial advan­tage over his Demo­c­ra­tic oppo­nent, at least not to the same extent as Walker will over his. John­son will likely be a top tar­get for Democ­rats nation­ally and the Demo­c­ra­tic nom­i­nee can count on sup­port from the national Demo­c­ra­tic appa­ra­tus — some­thing that is not a sure thing in the governor’s race.

Sigh…there is so much miss assumed here it’s gonna take a while.

1) The incum­bent advan­tages of fund rais­ing are with John­son this time around, not Feingold.

1A) Since both John­son and Fein­gold are anti-pork, Russ will unlikely be able to ben­e­fit from any “back-scratching promises” Democ­rats hoped to get for John­son being an “aus­ter­ity politician.”

1B) If the Left is hop­ing that gun con­trol is still around in 2016, that’s advan­tage John­son too.  If there is one group Fein­gold wants to stay away, it is the National Rifle Association.

2) Since 2016 is a pres­i­den­tial elec­tion year, the down bal­lot races tend to suf­fer in the money depart­ment.  Pres­i­den­tial cam­paigns — espe­cially wide-open pres­i­den­tial cam­paigns on both sides like we’re going to see in 2016 — will suck up all the avail­able money to Sen­ate and House can­di­dates like a sponge.  This will be advan­ta­geous to self-financiers like Sen. John­son if he so wishes to plug into his wal­let once again.

3) John­son will no doubt be a top Demo­c­ra­tic tar­get, but the NRSC is unlikely to give up the seat with­out a fight.

4) If Fein­gold is true to form, he’ll once again tell the DSCC to stay the hell out with out­side ads; the same with any var­i­ous Super­PACs run­ning ads.  You know, the kind that helped Tammy Bald­win bury Tommy Thomp­son.   If he doesn’t, he’ll be labeled as a hyp­ocrite toot suite by not just the GOP, but the media which will get an avalanche of Fein­gold quotes and video where he was attack­ing out­side money and out­side ads.

If the media doesn’t run with it, then once again their bias is showing.

Sec­ond, 2016 will be a pres­i­den­tial elec­tion year, a sit­u­a­tion that typ­i­cally favors Democ­rats. Fein­gold lost his seat in 2010 largely due to poor turnout from Demo­c­ra­tic vot­ers and a wave of ener­gized Repub­li­can vot­ers — mean­ing the elec­torate was dis­pro­por­tion­ately con­ser­v­a­tive. It is unclear what the dynam­ics of the 2014 elec­tion will be, but there’s a fair chance that, like most midterm elec­tions, it will favor Republicans.

This is the one trump card Fein­gold and the Democ­rats have going for them; pres­i­den­tial year turnout in Wis­con­sin.  It’s the same rea­son Kind wants to bypass 2014 and look at 2016 instead for a statewide run.  If the 2012 recall and the 2012 Pres­i­den­tial elec­tions have shown us any­thing, it is that Wis­con­sin isn’t so much a split elec­torate as two com­pletely dif­fer­ent elec­torates — one for years where a gov­er­nor is up statewide, the other for years where the pres­i­dent is up statewide.

Democ­rats seem to be bank­ing and invest­ing on that trend continuing.

How­ever, 2016 could be a bad year for Democ­rats.  It will mark the end of the Obama’s eight years in office and that tends to never work well elec­torally for the party of the sit­ting Pres­i­dent.  In 1980 (which got Bob Kas­ten elected in the Rea­gan land­slide), Repub­li­cans gained 12 seats.  In 2008, Democ­rats used the end of the George W. Bush years to gain 8 Sen­ate seats.

On the other hand, 1992 saw lit­tle gain for either side.  Democ­rats gained a seat in the Sen­ate, but Repub­li­cans gains seats in the House.  (See for your­self here.)  Who knows what’s going to hap­pen in 2016?

Which is why all the early game analy­sis right now is pretty point­less.  Three-plus years is an eter­nity in pol­i­tics and lord only knows what kind of land­scape we’ll be look­ing at by then.

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