Wisconsin US Senate Seat Race 2012 – Feingold Vs Van Hollen – Who Wins

By YeOldeScribe ~ May 19th, 2011 @ 7:08 pm

Usually at Political Progressives, when we ask questions like this, we like to present a couple different scenarios, answer some ‘what-ifs’ and wait to give you the answer to the original question until the very end. We’re not going to do that today, especially because if you’ve read the blog in the last two days, you know the answer to the question already – at least in our opinion:

If the general election comes down to a race between former Democratic Senator Russ Feingold and current Republican Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, Russ Feingold would win – and he’d do so pretty handily. Here’s why:

First, although it could be argued that there is a national resentment of Democrats (especially congressional Democrats), the same is not true in Wisconsin – in fact, it’s just the opposite. The Wisconsin public is irate – especially the Wisconsinites more likely to vote (teachers, union workers, educated people, etc). They’re upset with current Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker on so many levels. First, they’re upset that he mandated that their pension and health care went from being paid by the state to them having to contribute a significant amount to it. They’re upset because Walker didn’t stop there – he also stripped them of all collective bargaining rights, in a move that he later admitted to the US congress had nothing to do with saving money and everything to do with busting up the unions who opposed his gubernatorial run in 2010. Third, they’re upset by all the back-door politics that had to happen in order to get this bill passed. From holding an unconstitutional conference committee to voting on the bill illegally to circumventing a judge’s direct order to miraculously finding 7,500 ballots in the State Supreme Court Election two full days after the election was over, Wisconsinites are right not to trust Gov. Walker and his Republican cronies, and just as Justice Prosser, who had a 20-point lead in the polls before Walker ramrodded his evil Budget Repair Bill through the state government found out, the political climate in Wisconsin is heavily anti-Republican, no matter what the national climate is.

Second, Feingold has better name recognition, and is simply the better politician. We don’t mean to belittle Mr. Van Hollen’s accomplishments. The work he’s done as the state’s Attorney General is exemplary, and he should be commended for it. Clearing out a 1,000 case backlog in the state’s crime lab was no small feat, and Van Hollen has done a great job in his various other roles as the AG. But he has no experience in politics outside of being the AG, a position that is more legal than actually political. Even though we don’t agree with every single vote Feingold made (find us a politician who anyone does agree with 100% of the time and I’ll find you a liar), on the whole he was a great politician and did a great job representing the state and it’s progressively-minded people. Feingold was the only senator to vote against the PATRIOT ACT, which while originally celebrated, was later condemned for violating constitutional rights of US citizens. Feingold also voted against the war in Iraq, voted against the dismissal of charges against President Clinton during the ‘Zippergate’ scandal, argued and won on many issues related to campaign finance reform, and is a staunch opponent of the death penalty. In a race for Attorney General between these two candidates, we’d vote for Van Hollen in a heartbeat. Unfortunately for the Republican, this is a race for the US Senate, and Feingold has 18 years of impeccable service there, while Van Hollen has no real political experience of any kind.

Third, let’s take a closer look at the early poll numbers. We shared with you yesterday that according to a poll by the Public Policy Polling center (pdf link), Feingold was already ahead of Van Hollen, 51 percent to 39 percent (well outside of the survey’s margin of error). But a closer look at the data reveals even more good news for Feingold supporters. First, take a look at the dates on the poll. It was conducted Feb. 24-27 – well before the Budget Repair Bill blew up in the face of Walker, and well before the public backlash over the government’s illegal actions regarding the bill, and well before the backlash over the (arguably) rigged State Supreme Court election. Take into consideration that about the time this poll was taken, incumbent Justice David Proseer held a 20-point lead over his challenger, JoAnne Kloppenburg. That lead vanished by election day, and Kloppenburg should have nearly won the election. So Feingold’s 12-point advantage is more like a 30-point lead now. Second, Feingold has a double-digit lead over any Republican challenger when it comes to the independent vote, something that will most likely be a key to this election. On top of that, he has the support of at leas 90% of his base, which is also a good sign. Third, Feingold is already easily more popular than the man who replaced him, Ron Johnson. Johnson’s popularity is %32, Feingold’s was 51%. Granted, many people said there’s not enough information out on Johnson yet to make a decision, but if you look at the difference between favorable and unfavorable, Feingold still wins that matchup too with a 12 point difference compared to a 4 point difference for Johnson. Finally, the last sentence of the summary is arguably the most important (and a cause for celebration for Democrats) – Dean Debnam, President of the Public Policy Polling Center said that “Wisconsin is a different state politically in a presidential [election] year.” In short, Republicans shouldn’t expect to get the same support they did in the Mid-Term Elections. Democrats will benefit from the billion dollar treasure chest that will be the Barack Obama Re-Election campaign, and the success of that election drive will spillover into congressional elections as well.

Once again, we’ll point out that this matchup is entirely hypothetical at this point. Both Feingold and Van Hollen have not committed to run, and who’s to say a nobody like Ron Johnson was is comes out of nowhere and wins an election again? Using the data we have right now and taking a look at who is most likely to run, this is the matchup we think will happen, and we predict that if it does, Russ Feingold will once again be a US Senator from Wisconsin, winning the election by at least a 5-point margin.

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