A new Public Policy Polling survey posts former Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold (D) to a 50-41 percent lead over first-term incumbent Ron Johnson (R) according to just-released data.
The poll, however, (March 6-8; 1,017 registered Wisconsin voters) may be a better indication of what happens to former politicians once they leave office for an extended period of time instead of a clear forecast of the upcoming campaign. Typically, former office holders are viewed more favorably the longer they have been out of office, as Feingold’s 46:35 percent approval ratio attests. Five years ago, the Wisconsin electorate defeated him 52-47 percent, preferring newcomer Johnson.
Irrespective of political history, the polling result certainly doesn’t bode well for Sen. Johnson. His own job approval is an upside-down 32:40 percent, which is not too surprising for a PPP survey. The firm typically finds public officials of both parties holding negative ratings, much more so than other firms.
This latest Wisconsin study is no exception. Of the eight current and former politicians tested, only two, Feingold and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI-1), had positive ratings. The state’s other senator, first-term Democrat Tammy Baldwin, is also in negative territory. The poll respondents rated her performance as 38:42 percent favorable to unfavorable.
But, Sen. Johnson fares relatively well if Feingold decides not to run. All indications suggest he will soon announce a senatorial campaign, as resigning from his federal position at the State Department portends, but launching a new campaign is not a certainty.
If Feingold takes a pass, then look for representatives Ron Kind (D-WI-3) and Gwen Moore (D-WI-4) to jump into the Senate race. Should this develop, Johnson would have a 43-37 percent advantage over Kind, and a slightly better 45-37 percent margin against Rep. Moore, according to this poll. Though no statement has been made indicating that he would run for the Senate, PPP also paired sophomore Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI-2) with Johnson. In this instance, the senator posts a 43-36 percent edge.
Expect Mr. Feingold to soon enter the Senate race, and the campaign will very quickly evolve into a general election mode. A full-year campaign is promised for this critical presidential state, particularly so if Gov. Scott Walker becomes the Republican presidential nominee.
In any event, the 2016 Wisconsin Senate race will be expensive, hard-fought, and explosive.
The Mississippi special congressional candidate filing deadline is still just over two weeks away, but already 10 Republicans and a Libertarian have officially entered the race.
The special primary is set for May 12. All candidates will appear on the same ballot. If no one receives a majority of the vote in the first election — a virtual certainty in such a crowded field — the top two finishers, regardless of party preference, will advance to the special general on June 2. The irregular election was necessitated when Rep. Alan Nunnelee (R) passed away last month.
The field includes two county prosecuting attorneys, the state transportation commissioner, a state senator, two businessmen, two attorneys, and a former Jackson City councilor, even though the capital city of Jackson is not in the 1st District.
No Democrat has yet to file, and all eyes continue to fall upon former Rep. Travis Childers. He has not ruled out running, but has also not filed as a candidate. Childers won this seat in an early 2008 special, and was subsequently elected to a full term in the regular general election of that year. Nunnelee defeated him in the 2010 GOP landslide.
Childers was last on the ballot in November, when he hopped into the US Senate race. Hoping that state Sen. Chris McDaniel would upset US Sen. Thad Cochran in the Republican primary, Childers was betting that lightning would again strike for him. When Cochran scored a razor-thin run-off victory over McDaniel, the senator winning the general election became a foregone conclusion.
With so many Republicans on the 1st District ballot, there is a strong chance a lone Democrat will advance to the special general. But, a one-on-one contest against the top Republican should allow the latter to score an easy win in early June.
The victor will serve the balance of Rep. Nunnelee’s final term, and be eligible to seek re-election in the regular 2016 cycle.