In Wisconsin, Feingold-Johnson Senate Race Heats Up

A leading liberal Democrat is down in the polls

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Wisconsin Democratic Senator Russ Feingold is down in the polls against Republican challenger Ron Johnson. Feingold, who has held his seat since 1993 and frequently champions liberal causes such as campaign finance reform and opposition to the PATRIOT Act, has suffered in polling since July. While a poll out today shows him down by only two percentage points,'s aggregate average shows him trailing by eight points. Here's what political commentators are saying about the odds of this race and its national importance.

  • Johnson Leads by Being the Outsider  The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza says that Senator Feingold "is in deep trouble in his reelection bid against wealthy businessman [Republican] Ron Johnson. Feingold, who has spent 18 years in the Senate cultivating an outsider image, has watched as Johnson has taken the outsider mantle from him with ease."
  • Unhappy Democratic Base Could Lose Reliably Blue Wisconsin  The New York Times' Jeff Zeleny writes, "[Feingold's] Republican opponent, an Oshkosh businessman named Ron Johnson, is a newcomer to politics, but who has emerged as a serious threat through clever television commercials and an overall sense of discontent at Washington. The state of Wisconsin is more divided politically than it is often perceived, given its well-known progressive streak. This race offers a central test of the Democratic base and whether it is strong enough to prevent the winds of change from sending a new Republican senator to Washington."
  • National Liberal Groups Aiding Feingold  Hotline's Jeremy Jacobs writes, "Sen. Russ Feingold (D) raised $4.2M and reported $3.5M cash on hand. That's significantly more than businessman Ron Johnson's (R) $3.3M raised and $2M cash on hand. Feingold has been buoyed by fundraising from progressive groups like He may find, however, that his fundraising advantage gets wiped out quickly if Johnson decides to dip further into his personal fortune."
  • The Race in Football Terms  NBC News' First Read team breaks out the sports metaphor. "A recent Russ Feingold (D) ad bemoans celebrating in the end zone before the game is over. But in his race against Ron Johnson (R), Feingold right now is down by two scores with five minutes left. LEAN R."
  • Feingold Tries for Tea Party Votes  The Wall Street Journal's John Fund writes, "The increasingly strained efforts by Wisconsin Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold to ingratiate himself with conservative voters don't appear to be having much effect. ... That hasn't stopped Mr. Feingold from trying to reinvent himself as the original Tea Partier. He plugged away again in this week's debate between the candidates, calling himself the authentic 'maverick' in the race. 'I have actually done the things, most of the things, [Tea Party supporters] are concerned about,' he said, noting his votes against bank bailouts and the Patriot Act. 'They should vote for me.' ... Mr. Feingold has also been trying to play to Tea Party sentiment with radio ads that claim Mr. Johnson is soft on gun rights."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.