Friday, May 15, 2015

Feingold 2016

Feingold 2016
Nadia Prupis
Common Dreams
5/14/15

Former U.S. Senator Russ Feingold, Democrat from Wisconsin, on Thursday announced plans to run for reelection and regain the seat, setting up a rematch with Republican Ron Johnson, whom Politico describes as "one of the most vulnerable incumbents on the 2016 Senate map."
Feingold represented Wisconsin in the U.S. Senate for 18 years before he was defeated by the conservative Johnson in 2010's "Tea Party wave." However, as Politico points out, Feingold appears to have an advantage even two years ahead of the election, with a Marquette Law School poll conducted last month giving him 54 percent of the vote.
In a video announcing his run, Feingold singled out money in politics as a major factor in his campaign.
"People tell me all the time that our politics in Washington are broken and that multi-millionaires, billionaires and big corporations are calling all the shots," he stated. "They especially say this about the U.S. Senate, and it's hard not to agree."
The Senate needs "strong independence, bipartisanship, and honesty," Feingold said.
While in the Senate, Feingold "was the Democrats' leading campaign finance scold—and he "lived up to his principles in practice," writes National Journal political editor Josh Kraushaar. "He refused any outside spending from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in his unsuccessful 2010 campaign, and from any other outside super PACs... Feingold is a favorite of progressives, and his candidacy would be a reliable way to energize the grassroots base."
His announcement is seen as a solid development for the progressive wing of his party. Grabbing an endorsement from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee almost immediately, DSCC chairman Jon Tester called Feingold "a tenacious champion for the people of Wisconsin throughout his career."
In an email heralding Feingold's announcement, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee said that should the former senator win, "Elizabeth Warren will have another bold ally by her side."

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Saying his "desire to serve is stronger than ever," Democrat Russ Feingold announced Thursday a bid for his old U.S. Senate seat against the Republican who defeated him four and a half years ago — Ron Johnson.
A Johnson-Feingold race would be a rare rematch of Senate opponents, offer voters a stark ideological contrast and easily rank as one of the top Senate races in the country in 2016, fiercely contested by both parties.
Feingold made the announcement in a short video shot at his Middleton home, saying he wanted to "bring back to the U.S. Senate strong independence, bipartisanship and honesty."
He did not mention Johnson in the video or lay out his campaign message in any detail. He said he was focused on the worries people in Wisconsin have about "their economic well-being." He also raised a familiar Feingold theme — the role of money in the political process.
"People tell me all the time that our politics in Washington are broken and that multimillionaires, billionaires and big corporations are calling all the shots. They especially say this about the U.S. Senate. And it's hard not to agree," Feingold said.
In a statement, Johnson said:
"I welcome Russ Feingold into the Senate race. While I was building a small manufacturing business and creating real jobs in Oshkosh, Russ was building Washington into the gigantic, debt-ridden, tax-eating, unresponsive, and freedom-squashing government we have today. Russ Feingold wants more Washington, a more expensive Washington, and a more powerful Washington. I want to empower people. This campaign will give the people of Wisconsin a real choice."

Served three terms

Feingold was first elected to the Senate in 1992 and served three terms until Johnson defeated him 52% to 47% in the Republican wave of 2010.
Since his defeat, Feingold has written a book, been a visiting professor at several law schools and served for 18 months as a U.S. envoy to the troubled Great Lakes region of Africa. Feingold left that temporary assignment in March, amid broad speculation that he would mount another Senate campaign. He is teaching a course on central Africa to law and graduate students at Stanford University in California that ends early next month.
Senate rematches are a rarity. Wisconsin has never had one. It's also rare for a senator to return to the chamber after losing office.
But in a poll taken last month by the Marquette University Law School, Feingold led Johnson 54% to 38% among registered voters in the state. He was also better known than Johnson and had a more positive rating. In the Marquette poll, Feingold was viewed favorably by 47% of registered voters and unfavorably by 26%. Johnson was viewed favorably by 32% and unfavorably by 29%.

Race called a tossup

Johnson has acknowledged that he faces a tough re-election. The nonpartisan Cook Political Report rates Wisconsin one of four Senate tossups in the country, and one of just two tossups being defended by GOP incumbents.
But while Feingold used the language of a Washington outsider in his announcement — complaining of a broken political system — Republicans will attack him as a veteran of Congress with the baggage that goes with that.
"Feingold's tax-and-spend ideology has driven America deeper into debt and made it more difficult to achieve the American dream. We've rejected Feingold once for good reason, and we can't afford him in the U.S. Senate," said Joe Fadness, executive director of the Wisconsin GOP.
Feingold is not expected to face serious competition within his own party. The D.C.-based Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee endorsed him immediately Thursday, calling him a "tenacious champion for the people of Wisconsin."
Politically, Feingold has at least one important factor operating in his favor this time. Democrats have been performing better in presidential cycles — when the electorate is bigger and more diverse — than in midterm elections. Feingold nearly lost his seat in the 1998 midterm against Republican Mark Neumann and was defeated by Johnson in the 2010 midterm.
But 2016 will be a presidential cycle. Republicans in Wisconsin haven't won a U.S. Senate seat in a presidential year since Bob Kasten defeated Gaylord Nelson in 1980.
Just as important will be how the two parties' presidential nominees perform in the state next year. Ticket-splitting in major races has declined markedly across the country and especially in Wisconsin since Feingold's first election in 1992.
If that trend holds, it will be difficult for either Feingold or Johnson to markedly outperform his party's candidate at the top of the ticket. And there is at least a plausible chance that the candidate on the GOP side could be the state's governor, Scott Walker, which would set up another epic election struggle in a state that has experienced so many in recent years.

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