Embattled incumbent Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., accused a tea
party-driven conspiracy of seeking to destroy the Obama presidency –
yet will shun the president at a Labor Day event both are attending in
In a wide-ranging interview with The New York Times last week,
Feingold, one of the most liberal Democrats in the U.S. Senate,
charged that “Within days of the president being sworn in, I had
people showing up at my town meeting with hats on, with tea bags
coming out, saying this is going to be socialism.”
Feingold said that “people need to realize what is trying to be done
to the president.” Elaborating, he claimed, “A conscious
decision was made by certain groups to destroy this presidency the
minute it started.” He described such opposition to Obama as “a
cynical attempt to prevent the president from getting credit for doing
anything” and “a systematic, conscious attempt to dismantle this
But as Milwaukee Journal Sentinel columnist Patrick McIlheran wrote
over the weekend, three-term incumbent Feingold, now neck-and-neck
with the Republican nominee facing him – “a plastics manufacturer no
one heard of five months ago” – will intentionally avoid the president
Both will go to Milwaukee’s annual union festival, McIlheran reported,
but “By afternoon, he’ll have scampered far from Obama, to a parade in
his hometown, Janesville, where the General Motors bailout didn’t save
the truck plant and unemployment is now double-digit.”
Feingold is now only one percentage point ahead of GOP challenger Ron
Johnson, according to the Real Clear Politics average – and one point
behind (47 percent to 46 percent), according to a late-August Rasmussen Reports survey.
With a campaign that demands we “get our nation’s house in order,”
entrepreneur Johnson has used a strong dose of self-deprecating humor
in his advertising – such as having his family read wooden-sounding,
scripted testimonials in one commercial.
Johnson has also pledged to repeal Obamacare, and promised not to
vote for tax increases and not to accept spending earmarks.
Meanwhile, separating himself from Obama is proving to be a tough
balancing act for Feingold. Even on the unpopular health reform law,
Feingold praised the president in his Times interview, calling
Obamacare “one of the hardest things I’ve ever seen a president do.”
The dovish Feingold pulled no punches when it came to war, however.
“The one thing I think he did squander an opportunity was the mistake
of what he did with Afghanistan,” Feingold told The New York Times.
“It was a very bad decision. He should not have doubled down on
Afghanistan. That is going to hurt him more than these other things.”
In fact, as Newsmax’s John Rossomando reported last December, even on
health care Feingold has attacked the president from the left, blaming
the Obama Administration for the loss of the left’s goal of establishing a government-run health care option to compete with private insurance companies.
“Unfortunately, the lack of support from the administration made
keeping the public option an uphill struggle,” Feingold said in a
statement at the time. The president’s unwillingness to lobby
senators aggressively ultimately led to the public option’s downfall
in the Senate version of health reform, Feingold charged.
Observers consider the Feingold-Johnson race an important bellwether
for congressional races countrywide this fall, because if even liberal
Wisconsin can’t re-elect a Democrat, “safe” Democratic seats in other
states could be in jeopardy too.
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