Sunday, January 30, 2005
Is Feingold the "Best Candidate to Win?"Posted by Tim Tagaris
With almost four years to go until the next presidential election, I don’t know the answer to that. Apparently, neither does Senator Russ Feingold; but he is traveling the country to figure it out.
One of President Bush's most vocal opponents in the Senate is weighing a 2008 run for the presidency.
U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., told the Tiger Bay Club of Volusia County on Friday that he'll decide whether to run after "going around the country" working to return a Democrat to the White House.
Let's assume for a moment that the 2008 primary process will be the same. As a Midwesterner, Feingold would seem to be in good position to place well in the caucuses. He would probably even do better in New Hampshire a state that often favors the non-establishment "maverick-type" candidates. Chris Bowers spoke last month about Feingold's perception as an outsider:
Feingold is in an odd position. Even though he has won three terms in the US Senate, he actually is still known as a "reformer" and an "outsider," due in no small part to the constant repetition of the "McCain-Feingold" legislation in the national media.
I agree. The label of outsider is a well-deserved one for Feingold, and for more than just his role in the McCain/Feingold Campaign Finance Reform legislation.
As most people know by now, Senator Feingold was the lone voice of opposition to the USA PATRIOT Act. In his dissent a mere weeks after the unpopular vote (at the time), Feingold cited respect for the Constitution and protecting Arab Americans. He continued in the same speech:
The Founders who wrote our Constitution and Bill of Rights exercised that vigilance even though they had recently fought and won the Revolutionary War. They did not live in comfortable and easy times of hypothetical enemies. They wrote a Constitution of limited powers and an explicit Bill of Rights to protect liberty in times of war, as well as in times of peace.
There have been periods in our nation’s history when civil liberties have taken a back seat to what appeared at the time to be the legitimate exigencies of war.
Our national consciousness still bears the stain and the scars of those events: The Alien and Sedition Acts, the suspension of habeas corpus during the Civil War, the internment of Japanese-Americans, German-Americans, and Italian-Americans during World War II, the blacklisting of supposed communist sympathizers during the McCarthy era, and the surveillance and harassment of antiwar protesters, including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., during the Vietnam War. We must not allow these pieces of our past to become prologue.
It's the "straight talk express" v.2.0. In my mind, that is the most appealing aspect to a potential Feingold candidacy. His matter-of-fact style of speaking and positions on the issues is one that has the potential to cross over to the other side of the aisle. For the same reasons John McCain is popular, Russ Feingold would be equally as popular. What is ironic about that, is that while McCain truly is a bit of a moderate, Feingold actually represents to the positions pretty left on the political spectrum.
How will this go over in the conservative South? I don't think very well; quite frankly, I think we win in the Midwest and West. Either way, Feingold is taking his show on the road, his first stop, "playing golf" in Alabama.
"On Nov. 2, I was fortunate enough to be elected by the people of Wisconsin to a third term in the U.S. Senate. Right after the election, I confess I immediately went looking for a warm place to golf. So I piled into a van with some friends in Milwaukee and drove from Wisconsin to Alabama."
Suffice to say, not everyone believes that the good Senator from Wisconsin traveled by van across the country to brush up on his short game.
Keep a lookout for Sen. Russ Feingold , the second half of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance duo, who just won a third term from Wisconsin voters. He's on a nationwide mission to test out his progressive message that's liberal on some issues, like universal healthcare, and conservative on others, like the deficit.
Fans think he can bridge the blue-state-red-state divide, making him not just a voice for a changing Democratic Party but a possible '08 presidential candidate. He's not the only one: Republicans are keeping an eye on Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney , who's on his own message tour.
So now the speculation is over--the Senator is the first candidate officially testing the waters for 2008. But can he win? First of all, we know that he will do quite well in the Midwest.
In Wisconsin, Feingold received more total votes than John Kerry, crushing his opponent in a state John Kerry carried by the slimmest of margins - 50% to 49%
Russ D. Feingold (D) 1,632,562 55%
Tim Michels (R) 1,301,305 44%
Other 14,977 1%
No question about it, Feingold has some serious support in the netroots/grassroots as well.
Whether it is was MyDD poll that had Feingold clearly leading the way before an orchestrated "freeping" by General Clark fans -- or an ever growing Feingold for President Yahoo Group -- there is a growing buzz.
But the grassroots is one thing, national support on a ballot is another. So far, "mainstream" America has not caught Feingold fever. An Ipsos-Public Affairs poll (Dec. 17-19, 2004. Nationwide) had Feingold placed 7th, with a mere 1% of the vote. Even the popular tradesports.com has listed Feingold as a potential candidate, but he isn't getting much love there either.
It's early, but the question is officially on the table: "Is Feingold the best candidate to win?"
He's my second choice next to Evan. I like a Bayh/Feingold ticket.
If Bayh stands up to Bush in his second term, I'll consider him, but it'll be hard for Bayh to criticize the Bush record if he continues to vote for Bush initiatives.
Feingold can criticize Bush's record on the deficit because he voted against the Bush tax cut. Bayh cannot.
One thing I think we're missing is that the last President to come directly from the Senate was JFK. It's time we looked to the Governor's Mansions to fill the top spot, a Democrat, from a swing state, who has won re-election at least twice. Nice to have would be a minority with a name that "plays in all time zones" Cabinet and international diplomatic experience also a plus.
Bill Richardson, come on down, Russ would be great in the Veep slot, then in '16 Russ could run with Obama. But I'm just woolgathering.