A Public Policy Polling (PPP) survey, released on Wednesday, shows Wisconsin Republican Senator Ron Johnson in deep trouble against former Senator Russ Feingold (D), in a hypothetical 2016 election rematch. Johnson defeated Feingold in 2010, running as a Tea Party backed candidate. In the same election, Wisconsin first elected Scott Walker to be their Governor. Johnson and Walker each won by 52-47 margins. However, the PPP poll now shows Johnson losing a rematch to Feingold, by a rather substantial 50-41 spread.
In 2010, the ideological contrast between Johnson and Feingold was stark. Ron Johnson ran as a hardcore right-winger, arguing that Social Security was a “Ponzi scheme”. While Johnson became a Tea Party folk hero of sorts, Feingold was one of the most progressive Senators in the country. His name was attached to the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform Act. However, he gained even more acclaim for being the only U.S. Senator to have the presence of mind to vote against the repressive PATRIOT Act in October of 2001.
While 98 Senators voted to allow greater restrictions on American freedoms, Feingold courageously stood against the PATRIOT Act, arguing eloquently on the U.S. Senate floor:
Of course, there is no doubt that if we lived in a police state, it would be easier to catch terrorists. If we lived in a country that allowed the police to search your home at any time for any reason; if we lived in a country that allowed the government to open your mail, eavesdrop on your phone conversations, or intercept your email communications; if we lived in a country that allowed the government to hold people in jail indefinitely based on what they write or think, or based on mere suspicion that they are up to no good, then the government would no doubt discover and arrest more terrorists.
But that probably would not be a country in which we would want to live. And that would not be a country for which we could, in good conscience, ask our young people to fight and die. In short, that would not be America.
Preserving our freedom is one of the main reasons that we are now engaged in this new war on terrorism. We will lose that war without firing a shot if we sacrifice the liberties of the American people.
Despite Feingold’s bold stand defending American citizens from unwarranted government surveillance, he was defeated in 2010, ironically by a candidate who appealed to “anti-government” conservatives.
Unfortunately for Ron Johnson, Wisconsin voters have not been impressed with his performance as Senator. Only 32 percent of Wisconsin voters approve of his job performance while 40 percent disapprove. That contrasts markedly with Russ Feingold’s popularity. 46 percent of Wisconsin voters have a favorable image of Feingold, compared to 35 percent who have an unfavorable opinion of the former Senator.
Wisconsin voters have had enough of the tea party policies and antics of Senator Ron Johnson. They are experiencing buyer’s remorse for mistakenly choosing Johnson over Feingold in 2010. In a 2016 rematch, Feingold holds a convincing 50-41 lead. Wisconsin is one of the key swing states that Democrats must win to retake control of the Senate in 2016. Early polling suggests that if Russ Feingold decides to mount a comeback bid, Wisconsin will back him all the way.