Will Russ Feingold Run For Governor in Wisconsin?

By YeOldeScribe ~ June 9th, 2011 @ 2:07 am

Russ Feingold has to enjoy where he’s at in life right now. He’s a law professor, he’s writing a book, he just started a Political Action Committee that fights corruption instead of sponsoring it, he had better poll numbers when he was in office than the man who beat him in the recent elections currently holds, and he’s being asked – even begged – to run for multiple political offices. We’ve covered extensively that we think Russ would run for the Senate seat being vacated by Herb Kohl, but at that time we didn’t even consider that he could also run for a different office – the governorship.

If When the petitions are signed to recall Walker, the Democrats will have to put up someone to run against Walker. Passionate liberals might make the argument that an untrained monkey could do a better job than Mr. Walker has governing our great state, but that doesn’t mean that they can put anyone up against him and expect to win. They’ll need someone with political experience, someone who appeals to the centrists and the liberal Republicans (if there even are any in Wisconsin), and they’ll need someone who has experience with fixing budgets and creating jobs. When you list the attributes that the Democrats are looking for like that, it becomes increasingly obvious that Feingold would make a fine choice for Governor.

So there’s two important things to look at here. First, would Feingold win in a recall election against Scott Walker? But the second question is even more important – would Feingold run in such an election?

Tackling the first question is pretty easy, to be honest. If a recall election happens – and we’re pretty sure one will – then that means 25% of the state already wants Scotty-boy out of there. It’s pretty safe to say that those 25% are already going to be voting for Feingold. Then tack on another 10% of liberals that would vote for Feingold in the recall election but didn’t get the chance to sign the petitions to recall Walker. So all Feingold would have to do would be to convince 15 of the remaining 65 percent of Wisconsin to vote for him.

That’s easily doable, especially for someone as moderate as Feingold was. He fought corruption and unethical behavior when he was in power, Walker embraces it. He fought for the people of Wisconsin, Walker fought against them. Feingold did everything he could to support agriculture and small businesses, Walker has done nothing but offer tax breaks for the super rich which squashes small business development. Feingold protected the needs of the poor and unemployed, Walker spit on them. We could go on, but you get the idea. Feingold did everything right when he was a politician, and only lost office because the people who voted him out were drunk on Republican propaganda and couldn’t be troubled to take the time to look at Feingold’s near-spotless political record.

We don’t even think the election would be very close. Sure Walker would try to play the “but you just voted him out of office two years ago” card. But all Russ has to say is “yeah, and look who they elected that year – can we say mistakes have been made and it’s time to correct them?” In a matchup for governor between Feingold and Walker, we predict Feingold would win by at least eight points. We’d actually be more interested to see who Feingold would pick as a lieutenant governor – and we’d love to hear from you if you have any ideas!

But let’s answer the larger question at hand here – would Feingold run for the Governor’s seat if it’s open? Some people would say that it would be a tough choice for Russ, and we can understand why some think he’d be tempted to run since he’d most likely win. But we at Political Progressives believe Feingold will not run for three main reasons.

First, the timetable is wrong. Feingold has repeatedly gone on record saying that he will decide if he’s running for political office by Labor Day, which is September 5th. No recall petitions can be signed and gathered before November 2nd, which means if Russ announced he was planning on running for Governor, he’d have to do so and hope for the best. Granted, by then we should have a better idea of if the recall elections are going to happen as more polls will be done on the state after some of the local recall elections have been decided, but that’s still a gamble. And Russ isn’t known for taking leaps of faith like that. Sure, he was the only person who stood against the PATRIOT ACT, but that was done because he knew that the policy was bad. Here he’d be risking his own political career on a vote that may never happen. We just don’t see it happening, especially given the alternatives (more on that in a bit).

Second, the Governor’s seat really just doesn’t suit Russ well. We’re not saying that Feingold isn’t a strong leader, because he is – he showed us countless times as a Senator that he would stand up and do what was right even if no one else would, such as in the previously-mentioned PATRIOT ACT vote. But Russ has fought against consolidated power for most of his political career because it can be so easily abused. Even if he would do a fine job as governor, we just don’t see him running for the position because it doesn’t seem like something he’d really want to do. And he’s not a person – like say Donald Trump – who would say “I don’t want to run for political office, but I feel like I have to”. The position just isn’t a good fit for his philosophy, and we don’t think he’d run for it.

Which brings us to the final – and best – reason why Feingold won’t run for Governor: there’s a better alternative. Kohl’s Senate seat will be open – there’s no vote that needs to take place to decide that. It’s guaranteed that he’ll be leaving. And it’s also guaranteed that he’d get the Democratic nomination if he ran. According to a recent straw poll, Feingold would receive 70 percent of his party’s votes, Tammy Baldwin would receive 12, and no one else would receive over 5. And that’s assuming everyone ran. We’re guessing that most Democrats would immediately drop out of the race should Feingold run (which is probably why Baldwin’s self-imposed decision deadline is in “the winter” – well after Feingold makes his call.  And we’ve already discussed at length how Feingold would beat the best the GOP has to offer against him in a general election. Not to mention he has experience doing the Senate gig and he had little experience – especially recent – in State politics. The alternative of the Senate race is just too tempting for Russ, and even though he’d probably win the recall election, the Senate is what he loves and where he shines the brightest. He’d be a fool not to get back there in favor of ruling the state for a couple of years.

There’s a little more analysis that could be done as to why the Senate is a better fit for Russ and why he’s much more likely to run for that race, but suffice it to say we think that’s where he’ll end up running in 2012. Of course, there’s also a good chance he stays away from political office entirely. As we stated at the beginning, Feingold has a lot going on for him right now, and you could easily argue that he’d be a fool to give up those opportunities, too. In the end though, we’re predicting that the decision will come down to private sector work vs. a Senate run – we don’t think Feingold will consider running for Governor of Wisconsin for very long.

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4 Responses to Will Russ Feingold Run For Governor in Wisconsin?

  1. lola

    Russ will run for governor and here’s why. He has always wanted to run for president, but his 2008 hopes were dashed when Obama decided to run (and his 2nd divorce was still fresh.) If he puts in one term — one big, splashy, drama-filled term as governor — he will be able to launch a credible campaign for the 2016 Dem nomination for President. He has been a bit aimless the past few years without a next goal to try for. Now he has one and is back on track. Losing last fall will end up being the best thing that ever happened to him. Now he can run for president with both Senate and Governship experience under his belt — a very difficult resume’ to beat

  2. YeOldeScribe

    That’s an interesting though, Lola, but let us pose a counter-argument for you: Has Feingold ever said he wanted to run, or have other people just advocated that he should? To our knowledge, Russ has never stated that he’d want the Governorship, much less the Presidency. Even if we’d like to see him there, we need to consider what he wants, too.

    Thanks for commenting and reading our blog! Your time is much appreciated!

  3. lola

    Feingold claimed at the Dem convention last week that about 80% of the people he spoke with wanted him to run for governor. Without being able to actually measure that, it would seem more like it’s what he actually wants to do. The money he is now raising for a recall of State Senators will actually help build his support when he runs against Walker in a recall. Running for Kohl’s seat is risky and is still a dead end if he wants to run for President (which he started to do in ’06, so we do know he wanted it at one time — Hard to see where he suddenly stopped wanting it.) He is 10 points ahead of Walker in polls and knows he will likely win in a recall and is on his way.

  4. Joe

    I think he probably will run for governor (or at least, he is strongly considering it). I guarantee he has staff who have done the same analysis you did above, only in a lot more detail. As sharply divided as people are, I wouldn’t pick him by eight percentage points – just look at how close the Prosser/Kloppenburg election was – but I still think he could win. WI is very close to evenly split – the difference is that the people in favor of the Walker/Fitzgerald types are much quieter about it. Also, if he doesn’t run, who else could the dems pick in a recall election who would have nearly as good of a chance?

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