It’s Starting To Look Like Russ Feingold Will Run For Senate

Russ Feingold, US Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region of Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo, speaks during a press briefing at the Palais de la Nation in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sunday, ... Russ Feingold, US Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region of Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo, speaks during a press briefing at the Palais de la Nation in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sunday, May 4, 2014. The United States is ready to help fund the demobilisation of Democratic Republic of Congo's rebels, a senior US official said on May 3 as Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in the country on the latest leg of an Africa tour. "I can say categorically that we're ready to support them," the official said when asked if Washington was ready to back the government's demobilisation plan for some 12,000 rebels active in dozens of militias in the country's mineral-rich, restive east, a plan that's estimated to cost some 100 million dollars. (AP Photo/Saul Loeb, pool) MORE LESS
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Former Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) seems to positioning himself for a rematch against Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), who defeated him in 2010.

Democrats see Johnson as a top target, and have been drooling over the possibility of defeating him in 2016. Feingold currently serves as the special envoy to the Great Lakes region in Africa for the U.S. State Department. He’s slated to deliver his final speech as envoy on Tuesday, and is expected to leave the post shortly after to begin preparing to run against Johnson.

Sources close to Feingold told TPM that while he hasn’t made any final plans about running for Senate, the former Democratic senator and liberal favorite has begun telling people about his interest.

A close confidant of the former senator told TPM that Feingold had spoken to Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and “told them he is seriously taking a look at it.”

TPM was unable to reach Feingold at the State Department on Monday.

Liberal Democrats see Feingold as potentially their best chance of retaking the Senate seat.

“All I would say is, I think Russ was an excellent U.S. senator and I think he represents, or did represent, the values that Wisconsin appreciates. And I would hope that is considering it,” former Rep. David Obey (D-WI), an outspoken liberal firebrand in the House, told TPM on Monday. “I have no idea what his plans are or, if he has plans, when they would begin to manifest themselves.”

Obey said he thinks it’s a shame that Feingold lost to Johnson, and added that Feingold would definitely be someone who “would give us a chance to restore Wisconsin to the progressive side of the ledger. And God knows, with what’s been happening in the Congress and in Madison, with the governor’s office, that’s badly needed.”

Both Democratic and Republican operatives in Wisconsin are already getting used to the idea of a Johnson-Feingold rematch. Mike Tate, the chairman of the Wisconsin Democratic Party told National Journal that Feingold is “the strongest candidate to take on Ron Johnson in 2016.”

National Journal also said that Johnson currently has approximately $600,000 in the bank for his re-election campaign. Johnson was elected on the tea party wave in 2010. He’s one of the most conservative members of the Senate and a Public Policy Polling survey in 2014 found that Johnson had 34 percent job approval rating among Wisconsinites, while 36 percent disapproved of him. 30 percent don’t feel they have a strong enough opinion about him to make a determination. In a head-to-head matchup, the poll found Feingold beating Johnson 47 percent to 41 percent.

Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI) has also been mentioned as a potential candidate against Johnson but that same PPP poll from April found Johnson leading Kind 41 percent to 39 percent, with another 20 percent undecided.

Another poll from Marquette University conducted in October, also found Feingold with higher favorability than Johnson.

In anticipation of a possible challenge, Johnson has already begun taking swings at Feingold.

“He’s got a record of being fully supportive of a big, intrusive, controlling federal government and I would say right now that doesn’t sell very well,’ Johnson told the conservative magazine, National Review.

The DSCC seems confident that Democrats can take advantage of Johnson’s less than ideal numbers.

“There are a number of talented potential candidates in Wisconsin who could successfully take on Ron Johnson, who has spent his first term catering to the extreme wing of his party, and is now cheering a DHS shutdown,” DSCC National Press Secretary Sadie Weiner told TPM in a statement.

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Notable Replies

  1. Feingold was probably the worst casualty of the Great Sad of 2010. Having Elizabeth Warren win a seat 2 years later was a nice consolation in the meantime, but can we pleeeeeeeease have him back?

  2. So what’s Russ’s plan for how he’s going to deal with the giant wave of Koch money that will come piling into Wisconsin like a shit tsunami without getting his principles tarnished?

    It’s a real question. Johnson is one of the Koch’s favorite meat puppets. In North Carolina, Kay Hagan started out way ahead and Tom Tillis was about as popular as antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea after his role leading a truly despicable General Assembly session to North Carolina’s new place as a province of the Kochtopus Empire. Then came the shit tsunami of Koch money, with a lot of concern-trolling ads that dragged her numbers down to the low fifties, from whence they only degraded.

    Kay had a lot of money, but she ignored the early ads, following the CW that you need conserve resources for the general. It was a huge mistake. She should have spent as much as she needed to, hitting hard at those ads, and exposing their source, and then done what it took to raise more later if she needed to. Instead, she let the Kochs buy her seat for Tillis.

    Russ, however, won’t have any money because he thinks he can wish McCain-Feingold back into existence by living as if it was still in effect. And I’m very much afraid that in his head, he’s still living in the Wisconsin where he is a beloved figure and union-busting thuggish felons aren’t getting elected and then reelected governor.

  3. What you’re saying is unfortunately too true. I remember John Nichols saying some years ago during an informal chat on a Nation cruise that Russ Feingold was so steadfastly true to his ideals that he would break your heart.

  4. Avatar for litho litho says:

    “Starting”? A large number of us attempted to draft Russ to run against Walker in the recall campaign a few years back because we knew that only he had the statewide base to defeat the governor. Russ refused. Why? The insiders all said he had his eyes set on a 2016 rematch with Johnson. There was a less insistent draft Russ campaign last year to take on Walker, but we didn’t push as hard because we already knew the answer.

    Russ running for his old seat is an open secret. Every liberal in the state has known about his plan since he got beat back in 2010.

  5. I don’t really care what metric you used, Mr Strauss, but if Senator Johnson is one of the most conservative Conservatives, than this current crop of legislators (both parties, both houses) is far worse and less qualified than any in my lifetime. He should be booted out by Wisconsinites, tout suite.

    Mr Feingold’s loss was a kick in the ass. The only Senator to vote against the Patriot Act, one of the Dems to vote against the 2002 AUMF, he was in a small group of Dems who opposed the nomination of TreasSec Geithner, and he returned > $3m to the US Treasury. I liked his style.

    He’s on his third wife and maybe he needs a little distance. Other than that, Mr Feingold deserves that seat more than anybody.

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