Former Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI), who lost his seat after three terms in the 2010 Republican wave, has announced that he will not run for office in 2012 — either in the race for state’s open Senate seat, or in a potential recall against Gov. Scott Walker — a development that could possibly lower the chances for success of the latter possibility, or the likelihood of a recall even occurring.
“This was a difficult decision, as I thoroughly enjoyed my tenure in both the State Senate and the U.S. Senate, and I know that progressives are eager to reverse some of the outrageous policies being pursued by corporate interests at both the state and federal levels,” Feingold wrote in an e-mail to his supporters.
“I am also well aware that I have a very strong standing in the polls should I choose to run again for the U.S. Senate or in a recall election for governor. After twenty-eight continuous years as an elected official, however, I have found the past eight months to be an opportunity to look at things from a different perspective.”
Feingold has remained publicly visible, such as when he spoke to a rally at the state Capitol opposing Gov. Scott Walker’s anti-public employee union legislation. Such action kept speculation alive that he might run for office, either against Walker or in a comeback bid for Senate. But in the end, he has decided to remain in the private sector, saying he’s accepted a full-time teaching position at Marquette University Law School, where he had been teaching part-time this past spring semester.
A recent survey from Public Policy Polling (D) found the state’s voters statistically tied on whether Walker should be recalled, with Feingold as the only Democrat to lead him by a decent five-point margin. (Walker’s 2010 Democratic opponent, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, was also in a dead heat with Walker.) In the analysis, PPP speculated that Democrats would need a strong candidate like Feingold, in order to overcome a possible anti-recall bias that might exist among a key section of swing voters.
In addition, Feingold’s decision now makes Rep. Tammy Baldwin the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination for Senate, following Democratic Sen. Herb Kohl’s announcement in May that he will retire in 2012. For the moment, at least, PPP also found Feingold as the strongest Democrat against Republican former Gov. Tommy Thompson, who is poised to enter the race for senate, with Baldwin currently trailing Thompson.
Get the day’s best political analysis, news and reporting from the TPM team delivered to your inbox every day with DayBreaker. Sign up here, it takes just a few seconds.