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March 21, 2005
He'd Swear To Uphold The Constitution He's Emasculated?

The Chicago Tribune profiled a Democrat yesterday as a potential candidate for the presidency in 2008, a name that has not yet come up in the national crystal ball, but one whose main political accomplishment should disqualify him for the office. Meet Russ Feingold, the Wisconsin progressive who teamed up with the maverick Arizona Republican John McCain and a hundred million dollars in far-left money to strike a blow against free political speech:

Largely overlooked by national political pundits in the aftermath of the November election was the impressive re-election victory by the John McCain of the Democratic Party. As usual, Feingold campaigned as a straight-talking, risk-taking reformer, and his convincing victory should make him highly appealing to Democrats longing for somebody who not only has a winning track record, but who unabashedly stands for progressive Democratic Party values. This is no wimpy liberal who trims his message to fit supposedly conservative times.

In Wisconsin, while John Kerry barely eked out a win in one of the most hotly contested battleground states, voters were giving Feingold a near-landslide victory, electing him to a third term with 55 percent of the vote. Unlike Kerry, who tried to play it safe from start to finish, Feingold won big after voting against the Iraq war and Bush's tax cuts, and having cast the lone vote in the Senate against the Patriot Act. ...

What Feingold is proving in the politically critical heartland is that there is a market for the old-fashioned politics of reform.

Feingold is something of a throwback within the Democratic Party, according to veteran Washington observer and campaign finance reform guru Fred Wertheimer, who worked with Feingold on the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform legislation. "There used to be a much more powerful stream in the Democratic Party when members of Congress supported liberal ideas for the common good when they were not constrained by big corporate campaign contributions," Wertheimer said. Feingold, he said, still acts that way.

Oh, does he? Ryan Sager's expos of the big bucks behind the Pew Center's con game on campaign-finance reform obviously has not crossed Sanford Horwitt's desk at the ChiTrib. Feingold may not have personally benefitted at the same levels that McCain did from the moneymen behind the BCRA, but he nevertheless sponsored the broadest restrictions on political speech since the Sedition Act. Thanks to Senator Feingold, we now have restrictions placed on interest groups that disallow them from speaking their minds about political issues depending on the calendar while exempting the candidates themselves and the mainstream media. Thanks to Feingold's allies in the House, Shays and Meehan, the courts have now forced the FEC to regulate speech on the Internet itself, with possible limitations for bloggers coming our way.

I wonder how many of the left-leaning bloggers in the Online Coalition will welcome a Feingold candidacy?

Besides, Horwitt oversells Feingold. Feingold beat his Republican challenger by twelve points, but Tim Michels had never run for political office before, which hardly made him a formidable candidate against a two-term Senate incumbent with over 20 years in Wisconsin politics. Half of that gap came from Milwaukee County, where the largest city had a voting scandal that has prompted an independent investigation with the state attorney's office and the FBI. Almost all of the rest of the difference came from Dane County, home of the University of Wisconsin at Madison. It's true that Feingold did better than John Kerry, but outside of the two main urban centers of the state, Feingold barely came up even against a political novice -- hardly a stellar example of political momentum, even in Wisconsin, let alone anything on which to build a national campaign.

Horwitt, however, can be excused his enthusiasm for Feingold. Despite his record of lackluster victories and attacking free speech, he may still have more appeal than John Kerry and less baggage than Hillary Clinton. What the three do have in common is almost no chance of winning a general election.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at March 21, 2005 9:06 PM

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Tracked on March 22, 2005 1:37 AM

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