Sunday, October 17, 2010

Wisconsin U.S. Senate Race

Race of the Day

Wisconsin U.S. Senate

October 17, 2010
16 Days Until Election Day

Status: Democrat Incumbent
2008 Presidential Result: Blue State (Midwest)

Outlook: Leans Republican

Just a year ago, very few political observers believed that Democrat Russ Feingold would have too much difficulty winning a fourth term. A favorite of many liberals across the country, including several who had pushed him as a potential Presidential candidate before the rise of Barack Obama, Feingold had survived close races before, benefiting in his somewhat left of center state by cultivating a maverick, anti "politics as usual" image, and it seemed as if he could hold the seat on Capitol Hill for as long as he wanted it.

A few Republican challengers emerged to take on Feingold, but the belief was that only former Governor and U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson could give him a real race. As the months went by, and Democrats around the country started looking vulnerable, Thompson, who had run a longshot bid for the GOP Presidential nomination in 2008, said he was giving it thought. Numerous polls were conducted showing a close race between the two men, but ultimately, Thompson passed on a political comeback.

Republicans were disappointed, feeling that Feingold was now in command, though at least one wealthy businessman with name recognition briefly entered the contest. That candidate withdrew though, when another wealthy businessman entered the fray. CEO Ron Johnson quickly obtained the support of Wisconsin's Republican establishment, but also proved to be a popular figure in the state with Tea Party supporters. A self-funder, Johnson took 85% in the state's mid September primary.

With a relatively short general election, many wondered whether the political novice would be able to follow through on a promising effort to oust the veteran Feingold, especially in a state like Wisconsin, which had not elected a Republican to the Senate since 1986. Since the end of July however, every poll has put the Republican Johnson ahead. A lead of 12 points found by Rasmussen Reports at the end of September narrowed a bit to seven points earlier this week, but the margin for Johnson appears to be a bit over the 50 percent threshold. That is also backed up by a CNN/Time poll which also shows Feingold down by eight points, with Johnson obtaining 52 % of the vote.

Whether it is a desire for change, or Washington outsiders, or a surge of conservatism in America's Dairyland, Feingold's political career seems headed for expiration, like a moldy piece of cheese. While the race could be somewhat closer at the end, if nothing changes between now and Election Day, Johnson's campaign will be noted as one of the surprise successes of the year, and the loss in Washington of his Democrat opponent will be a bitter pill to swallow for many liberals in Wisconsin and beyond.

Johnson campaign link:

2010 U.S. Senate races predicted: 10 D, 27 R
Predicted U.S. Senate Balance of Power: 50 D, 50 R

Check back on Thursday for revised race predictions and totals.