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Feingold for President?

Was Russ Feingold’s move to censure Bush really about his own presidential aspirations?

According to this Washington Post story, it looks that way: 

“The left wing of the party has greeted Feingold’s censure call ecstatically. He was the front-runner in a Jan. 31 survey of 2008 presidential candidates by the liberal blog Daily Kos. Feingold garnered 30 percent support among the more than 11,000 respondents, eclipsing retired Gen. Wesley K. Clark, who dropped to second place after leading in the previous five bimonthly polls.”

From a selfish strategic standpoint, Feingold’s move seems smart.  Hillary Clinton has been working to moderate her image, so there may now be room in the race for someone to go to the left of Hillary — and occupy the territory that Dean carved out in 2004. This is nothing to be sneezed at. Although he ultimately lost, Dean went from being an obscure governor of a small state, to being a frontrunner for months. The liberal wing of the Democrat Party is a tremendous resource for money and activists, especially in a primary. Feingold may see this as his chance to become “the liberal” in the race.

Of course, Democrat strategists hope this scenario does not come into fruition. A strong liberal candidate would only serve to force Hillary to defend her left flank in the primary, thus making it harder for her to appear as a moderate in a general election.  

But Feingold’s maneuver isn’t just problematic for Hillary in ’08. At a time when Democrats were beginning to score points over the ports issue, in one fell swoop, Feingold has put the Democrat Party back on the wrong side of the national security issue. This is the work of either a very selfish politician, or a very naïve one.  

Following is an excerpt from the O’Reilly Factor, back in January of this year. It illustrates why Democrats should not be talking about the wire tap issue:

DICK MORRIS: …There is no such thing as a negative story about George Bush on Homeland Security. The more Ted Kennedy talks about overreaching executive authority, and NSA wiretaps, and Bush’s extensive use of The Patriot Act, the more they’re helping Bush, not hurting him. But the more you talk about.

O’REILLY: Why, why, why?

DICK MORRIS: Because the public is overwhelmingly with George Bush on that issue. And the negative press coverage of The Times and everybody else can’t change that. It’s a 70-20 issue for Bush. And all they’re doing is calling attention to it by the criticism. By the same token, there is no way that Bush will ever succeed if the articles are about healthcare, and the price of drugs, or with the environment or global warming.

Feingold’s little scheme may be a personal power-play to excite liberal bloggers, but it ultimately hurts his own party. We should be thankful that every time Republicans mess up, a Feingold always seems to come to our rescue.

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Written By

Mr. Lewis has managed political campaigns and served as director of grassroots for the Leadership Institute, as well as political director for GOPAC. In 2002, Campaigns & Elections magazine selected him as a "Rising Star of Politics." He is the author of "Teaching Elephants to Talk." His blog can be read at MattLewis.org.

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