Welcome to Russconsin. When Sen. Russ Feingold lost to Tea Party frootloop Ron Johnson just months ago, it appeared that the Democratic Party's moment had faded -- both in Wisconsin and nationally. Republicans descended on state houses and Washington in a "wave election," sweeping out Democrats and flipping blue to red. But then something happened. Republicans either forgot or ignored the fact that polling showed they didn't so much win these contests. Polling showed Democrats had lost. Republicans were swept in as part of a massive protest vote, not as an endorsement of their ideas.
But those Republicans decided, for one reason or another, to behave as if they'd been given a mandate. Perhaps some believed that if people actually saw GOP ideas in action, they'd come to support them -- that now was their time to shine. Maybe others thought that the people really did support their policies, but that the polling was somehow missing that fact. Still others had no interest in legislative careers; elected office being a form of activism, they simply wanted the chance to do as much damage as possible to the hated government, mandate be damned.
For whatever reason, Republicans engaged in overreach almost immediately. The populace voted them in on issues of jobs and the economy; instead, the GOP began to strip people of rights, increase unemployment through cuts and layoffs, and to giveaway anything that wasn't nailed down to moneyed interests in the forms of tax cuts, subsidies, and privatization. In Wisconsin, as it did nationwide, this got old fast.
In commenting on the special election in New York's 26th congressional district earlier this week, Tom Jensen of Public Policy Polling had this to say; "Congressional Republicans are extremely unpopular and voters think they're doing an even worse job than the Democrats they put out of office six months ago. That was true in NY-26 and that's true nationally. Last month we found nationally that 43% of voters thought House Republicans were doing a worse job than the Democrats did while in the majority to only 36% who felt they were an improvement. Even in NY-26, which voted 13 points more Republican than the country as a whole in 2008, 38% of voters think the Republicans are doing a worse job than the Democrats to only 34% who think they're an improvement. You can talk about Jack Davis all you want but the reality is that if voters thought House Republicans were bringing the improvement they hoped for when they went to vote last November Jane Corwin would have won tonight."
Republican overreach takes its toll. Which brings us back to Russconsin.
PPP also polled the coming recall of Gov. Scott Walker and found shades of Gray Davis. If a recall election were held today, Walker would lose -- decisively. Against his general election opponent, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, Wallker would be defeated 50%-43%. Against Russ Feingold, it would be 52%-42%.
50% support a recall, while 47% don't. But this is a misleading metric, since a much smaller percentage than fifty is needed to trigger a recall. Those numbers guarantee one.
Also up for polling is the seat held by retiring serial-backbencher Sen. Herb Kohl. In that race, Feingold is again the clear frontrunner. Of all the Democrats mentioned as possible candidates Russ does the best, beating GOP frontrunner and former Governor Tommy Thompson by 10 points.
So, seven months after he was voted out of office, former Sen. Russ Feingold can have his pick of elected offices. Will it be the Governor's Mansion in Madison, will it be back to work as the junior Senator from Wisconsin, or will it be something else? The world may not be his oyster, but this state certainly is.
Just months into what was supposed to be the Republican Party's crowning moment, the whole thing is collapsing around their ears.
Welcome to Russconsin.