Wisconsin US Senate Seat Race 2012 – The Democrats

By YeOldeScribe ~ May 18th, 2011 @ 2:44 pm

In today’s extra special double dose of Political Progressives (because our writer’s computer died last night and we couldn’t post then), we’re taking a look at the Democratic contenders for Herb Kohl’s Senate seat which he’s vacating in 2012. Democrats have held the seat for 55 straight years, and the last Republican to have it was none other than renowned commie hater Joe McCarthy. In a tumultuous election in which Republicans will be trying to carry their momentum from the 2010 mid-term elections and reclaim the Senate (and the White House), this seat is already gaining national attention that will only intensify once 2012 rolls around and two candidates are left to fight to the death for it. We’ve already predicted that the Republicans will send current Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen into the political arena for this battle. So who will the Democrats counter with?

Prevailing wisdom is that Russ Feingold will run in 2012. Most of the public (that cares about such things) have already suggested that he would be the leading candidate. Yet the leading Republican candidate, US Rep. Paul Ryan, has already backed out, and Feingold has been less than enthusiastic about running – and rightly so. Russ is currently working on a book, teaches law at Marquette University and started his own PAC called Progressives United. While we usually decry and condemn PAC’s, this isn’t one of those shadow PAC’s like the Greater WI committee or the WI club for growth that only exist to run truthless, tactless ads bashing political candidates – Progressives United exists to shine light on corruption in government and to further the progressive agenda. things we obvioualy support.. If you have a moment, check out the Progressives United website. It’s a really good site with a really good message. After all, us Progressives have to stick together and support each other!

While the Republican field was pretty wide open, the Democratic field doesn’t seem to have as many players – and if Feingold does decide to run, he will probably run unopposed in the primaries because no Democrat would risk their current job to take down a politician so popular. We’ll give you three politicians who might make a run, and then give you our winner.

First up is former US Rep. Steve Kagen. The Appleton allergist won the seat Mark Green vacated to run unsuccessfully against Gov. Jim Doyle in 2006. He beat John Gard in that 06′ election and defeated him again in ’08. Due to paranoia and massive stupidity that swept the country in ’10, Kagen was replaced in the House by Reid Ribble, who is quite possibly the only person on the planet who could give Ron Johnson a run for his money in the “Dumbest Person to Walk the Earth” category. We don’t hold that loss against Kagen though – we blame the public who let Republicans manipulate them into thinking that all Democrats are pinko commies who support socialism and weren’t even born in the country. What we do hold against Kagen is his inability to get the job done in DC. Kagen was mostly unnoticeable in his four years in office, largely voting on party lines and rarely making headlines. His most noticeable act was to co-sponsor the Pharmaceutical Market Access and Drug Safety Act, which has been stalled in committee twice. Kagen’s got the money to run, but he’s just not personable enough (having interviewed the Doctor multiple times, we can verify that). Combine that with a lack of appeal to independents and the fact that he’s not the most experienced candidate out there, we’re predicting he would be easily defeated in the Democratic primaries regardless of if Feingold runs or not.

One person who could defeat him is current US Rep. Tammy Baldwin. Baldwin is largely popular among state Democrats, and hailing from Madison she’s been able to win six re-election campaigns. As a seventh-term US Representative, Baldwin has a lot of experience under her belt, and a lot of that experience is very pleasing to Democrats. She proposed articles of impeachment against then Vice President Dick Cheney and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, and she voted against the war in Iraq. However, this may not equal the mass appeal you’d think it would – especially outside the party. Baldwin was ranked as the most liberal member of congress by the National Journal, and she’s openly gay, which means many people (especially some conservative-leaning independents) won’t vote for her just because of her sexual orientation. Add in the fact that she comes from Madison, a place which our current governor doesn’t believe is even a part of our state (even though he happens to work there) and you’ve got a recipe for backlash that could derail the chances of Democrats keeping the seat.

Which brings us back to Feingold. If he does decide to run, he would win the primary without a doubt, as he could easily defeat Kagen and Baldwin would back out to retain her seat in the House. And if he ran, it looks like he’d also do well in the general election too. In fact, as of right now, he’s beating everyone the Republicans have to throw against him, including Paul Ryan (who already said he wouldn’t run).  In this Public Policy Polling poll (pdf link), Feingold is beating Van Hollen (who we think will receive the Republican nod) by a 51-39 percentage of the vote, Neumann by 50-40, and even Ryan by 48-38. Those are pretty good odds – and our current governor is only helping matters. Republicans have pissed off their constituents so much that we’re seeing unprecedented recalls and public protests against the governor and his Republican cronies. If you thought that Republicans were disenfranchised by Health Care Reform in 2010, wait until you see how disenfranchised the entire state of Wisconsin feels after Scotty boy’s Budget Repair Bill Debacle. In Wisconsin, Feingold could easily win the Senate seat – if he decides to run.

But will he? That’s the million-dollar question right now. His former Chief of Staff Mary Irvine made a statement that some have interpreted as Feingold saying he would not run. Said Irvine: “Running for office in 2012 is not something Russ is eager to do or has been planning to do.” But let’s evaluate that. First, it’s taken out of context. Here’s the full quote:

“Running for office in 2012 is not something Russ is eager to do or has been planning to do. He is very committed to his current projects — teaching law at Marquette University Law School, Progressives United, and writing a book about American foreign policy. He will come to a decision, in the coming months, after consulting with family and friends and people in Wisconsin.”

This gives you a clearer picture of what Irvine was talking about. After he lost the 2010 election, Feingold said in his concession speech “On to 2012!”, which many took to mean that he would challenge Kohl for his seat. Russ quickly squelched that notion. And he does have other commitments outside of politics, and probably assumed that Kohl would not retire this year. So even if this statement is true, it doesn’t mean he’s not running – it just means it’s something he wasn’t banking on. Second, this was made by his former Chief of Staff. Let’s let Russ speak for himself and when we hear word from him, we’ll know exactly where he stands.

So will he run? We think so. As much as Feingold loves Progressives United, teaching and writing his book, he loves politics more. He was a career politician for all the right reasons, and was a voice of reason and progressiveness in a sea of party politics and regressionary tactics. He loved serving this state, and the state loved him for it. Combine that with the fact that he’d probably win (and that he has the money, support and staff needed to run) and we’re pretty sure this is an opportunity that’s simply too good to pass up for Feingold. Thus, it’s our opinion that Russ Feingold will be the unchallenged winner of the Democratic US Senate primary.

Check back tomorrow as we see how the Feingold-Van Hollen matchup stacks up. We’ll cover who will win and why, and we’ll also share who we’d support and why. Stay Tuned!

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