In a Friday blog post celebrating Russ Feingold's purported "bad week," the Journal Sentinel's McIlheran threatened that he would have "more on the subject of Feingold and his chances in my Sunday Journal Sentinel column."
And yes the Patrick McIlheran column on Sunday focuses on Feingold ... and naturally he leads with an interview with Ted Kanavas, the retiring wingnut Republican State Senator from Brookfield.
Ted Kanavas, who last week said that he won't run for re-election to the state Senate, also says he's not just clearing his schedule to run against U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold.
People have mentioned Kanavas, a Brookfield Republican, as a possibility to take on the 18-year incumbent Democrat. "Which is flattering," said Kanavas, though he swears it's a possibility he's spent no time contemplating.
McIlheran, showing the investigative skills he picked up in his two years as a reporter, prods and ultimately gets this:
"You never say never," said Kanavas. For now, the Legislature's in session. There will be time later to think about running for something bigger, he said, maybe once bigger names make up their minds.
The Brawler thinks it would be an excellent idea for the Republicans to run Ted Kanavas, as a Waukesha County wingnut clearly is the ideal candidate to take on Russ Feingold. And, per McIlheran, putting on the airs of the plugged in, some "people" agree. Who are they? I know Sykes has thrown his name out, as has Belling. Kyle in Brookfield certainly hopes so. And it's worth noting that Cindy Kilkenny picked up signs of Ted kicking around -- OK, stumbling into -- this idea last year.
Kanavas, for his part, joins a chorus of Republicans thinking Tommy! is the guy to do it. The same big spending, Badger Care creating Tommy! they've reviled in the quite recent past. The same Tommy who's flirted with running for office since his stint with the Bush Administration (no liability there!). "But," McIlheran informs us, "suddenly this may be the year."
Why? Because polls, some more than a year out, show Russ isn't hitting big numbers:
Pollsters have been asking. One in October pegged Thompson as the surprise 43%-39% winner over Feingold in a hypothetical matchup. Last week, pollster Scott Rasmussen tested a Feingold-Thompson race and found likely voters going for Thompson, 47% to 43%. Independent voters favored Thompson 53% to 36%.
Then again, it's only January and just a poll. Feingold beat Thompson 50% to 41% in a poll in November. That was by a firm that consults for Democrats (Rasmussen is independent),
Let's stop right there -- Rasmussen may be independent, but there is no question that his questions often follow Republican frames, that he makes polling decisions favorable to Republican frames, and observers suggest he's skewing toward older, white Republicans. Certainly in Wisconsin, he's shown a knack for underestimating Democratic voters.
and, interestingly, it matched Feingold against the two Republican candidates actually running against him, Watertown businessman and West Point alumnus Dave Westlake and Madison developer and liberal-annoyer Terry Wall. It found Feingold only drawing 47% and 48%, respectively, against them.
That's less than 50% from a friendly pollster before Obamacare got jammed through the Senate, before Massachusetts went Republican, against two candidates who, for all their real merits, could have been named Guy 1 and That Other Guy.
Then again, while Feingold only drew 47% and 48%, Wall only drew 34% and Westlake only drew 32%, statistics curiously elided by Paddy (the poll was by PPP, incidentally). Now, the Brawler would not advise Feingold view this race as a cakewalk, regardless of who he's running against. But the Brawler would suggest that Feingold is starting from a much better place than Guy one and That Other Guy. And he's a better campaigner than Martha Coakley, to put it mildly. Also, note that Doyle didn't poll well but won fairly easily against Mark Green.
It also was before Feingold's series of "listening sessions" this month wherein skeptical constituents packed rooms to denounce Obamacare, which Feingold supports. "No one can believe you," and "I do not want this health care thing pushed through" were typical comments at recent sessions, while Feingold has been replying that citizens are misinformed, that "when they look at this in the end, (they) are going to say, 'Wow.' "
Yeah: "You'll thank me for this later" is always a winning line.
Feingold also discounted listening-session anger in Pewaukee and Mequon as being in Republican places, but he's catching that flak elsewhere, too. Those quotes were from sessions, reported in the press as largely hostile, in Brown County (where Obama won 54% of the vote two years ago) and Jackson County (Obama: 60%). That's the sound of shifting terrain.
Actually that's the sound of anecdote. Curiously, Paddy ignores the listening session, likely thinly attended by teabaggers, at Washington High School in the city that gives the newspaper employing him its name.
So Feingold's vulnerable. Voters still distrust the GOP, but a year of stimulus, clunker-cash and Obamacare has left them distrusting Democrats at least as much. That's why Thompson's old-hand status may haunt him if he did run, but if ever there were a year for never-been-elected outsiders like Wall and Westlake to run against an entrenched incumbent with $9 million to spend, this might be it.
"I think any Republican has a chance this year," said Kanavas. Funny, how fast things can change.
Actually, the Brawler's fairly confident people distrust the GOP more. But in any event: Run, Ted, Run!