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.