The Campaign Spot

The Incumbent’s Not Fine, and Not Golden in Wisconsin

Not long ago, one of my guys characterized Wisconsin senator Russ Feingold as “a goner,” which I thought was wildly over-optimistic from the GOP perspective. But two Rasmussen polls put the incumbent Democrat up by 2 percent over businessman Ron Johnson and then up by 1 percent.

Later today, Public Policy Polling will weigh in, and they offer a preview:

We’re going to have Wisconsin Senate numbers out tomorrow and they confirm that this is a real race, even after Tommy Thompson decided not to run. I actually think Ron Johnson is a more formidable opponent for Russ Feingold than Thompson would have been . . . Johnson begins as an unknown to a majority of voters in the state, but that gives him a lot more room to define himself positively than Thompson would have had as someone everyone in the state already had an opinion about.

Russ Feingold is in his third term, and won in 2004 with 55 percent when Bush was losing the state by 11,000 or so votes out of almost 3 million (or at least that’s what the Milwaukee ACORN office would have us believe). If he really is polling close to even against a relative unknown, then Democrats have good reason to panic.

UPDATE: PPP puts Feingold up by 2.

Wisconsin voters are evenly divided in their feelings about Feingold with 42% giving him good marks and 42% think he’s doing a poor job. Feingold’s reviews are nearly completely polarized along party lines, with 71% of Democrats approving of him and 72% of Republicans disapproving. Independents are also against him by a 39/46 margin, reflecting their unhappiness with most all incumbents across the country right now.

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