On a conference call with reporters just now, Wisconsin Democratic Party chairman Mike Tate predicted that the party would have one or more strong candidates in the race to succeed Dem Sen. Herb Kohl, who announced his retirement earlier on Friday. Indeed, TateÂ directly named some key potential candidates who are already looking at it, or might soon be doing so.
Chief among the names that Tate listed were former Sen. Russ Feingold, who lost re-election in the 2010 Republican wave after three terms in office, and seven-term Rep. Tammy Baldwin from Madison and the surrounding counties.
"I think the next 6-8 weeks are going be an important timeframe for people to at least make a decision about whether they're gonna run," Tate said.
"I've already spoken with some people this morning who indicated there are serious people thinking about getting in this race," Tate also added, saying that at least for Friday focus should be on Kohl himself and his record of serving the state.
When a reporter asked who Tate might have been talking to, or what names might have come up, Tate said there could be many great candidates. "Obviously Russ Feingold looms large if he were or were not to run again," Tate said. "And I've spoken to people very close to her that Tammy Baldwin is seriously considering running for the Senate seat."
Tate also said that people who might be looking at the race include Rep. Ron Kind, Milwaukee Mayor and 2010 gubernatorial nominee Tom Barrett, former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk, and biotechnology executive Kevin Conroy.
Tate also took some shots at potential Republican candidates, as a potential preview of what is to come.
Regarding House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan: "I don't think Paul Ryan with all the money he could raise would be able to defend his plan to end Medicare and privatize Social Security."
Of former Rep. Mark Neumann, who unsuccessfully challenged Feingold in 1998, and ran an unsuccessful race in the 2010 Republican gubernatorial primary, Tate said that Neumann now "runs losing campaigns for a living."
And of either state House Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald or his brother, state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald: "I can't think of two more divisive leaders who have been running an anti-family agenda."
TPM asked Tate whether a primary race for Senate next year could potentially suck oxygen out of Dem efforts to recall Gov. Scott Walker, due to a primary race removing candidates, money, manpower and energy away from a recall drive.
"I don't think so. And the reason I don't think so is we're experiencing an ongoing correction, an extreme visceral recoil from Republican Party politics," Tate responded. "Both at the local level with what's happening with Scott Walker and Wisconsin Republicans, and at the national level. I think what this does is bring more oxygen to the fire."