Friday, March 10, 2006

Feingold in '08 ?

If only a third of New York voters say they will support Hillary for President, isn't that just another sign that Clinton II isn't going to happen?

I am no fan of Russ Feingold. I think his "campaign finance reform" bill was an extraordinarily bad piece of legislation. The notion that he is a "maverick" is oversold. In the National Journal's recent rating of legislative voting records, he's got a liberal rating of 85.2. This makes him the 14th most liberal Senator. By way of contrast, there are only nine Republicans who have a rating that his more conservative than Feingold's is liberal. Rick Santorum's "conservative" rating is 70. Will my friends on the left say he is a maverick?

I think this reputation is more a product of his relentless drive for self promotion and distinction. (I am told that when he was in the legislature, the other Dems called him "It's not about us" Russ.") What Feingold really represents is not eclectic independence but representation of the unfiltered left. Watch. In the next year, no one is going to get to his left on Iraq or the war on terror.

Nevertheless, I suspect that, if Russ runs for President, he will make a splash. He's a bright guy, has a self deprecating sense of humor, and could very well become the darling of the drum circle left wing of the Democrat party. This is a role that someone has to play every virtually every year in which the Dems aren't running an incumbent or sitting VP. It was Splash Kennedy in '80; Alan Cranston in '84; Paul Simon in "88, Jerry Brown (after a brief stint by Tom Harkin) in "92 and Howard Dean last time.

I don't think you can be nominated that way, but you can attract a lot of attention.

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