Why I no longer support Feingold -- the divorce.

After further review and agonizing soul-searching (which explains why I didn't write a diary yesterday), I have decided that I can no longer support Russ Feingold for President. I am well and truly beaten. I did not realize that a twice-divorced candidate would be such a big liability. I fear that it would be such a great liability that we would be beaten even worse than McGovern and Mondale did.

As much as we might agree with Feingold 100% on the issues, he is simply not electable. People want a candidate who represents America, and they would always go for the man who best represents their ideals. This includes having a traditional family. After all, if a man can't run his family, then how can he run this country?

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Feingold Makes a Serious Move Toward Running in 2008

Apart from the TX-28 election, this has been a fairly slow week. However, I have to say that this caught my eye: Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wisc.) has recruited veteran party operative Paul Tewes to help him begin the long process of courting Iowa voters.

Tewes, who served as the political director at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee during the 2004 cycle, is on a trip to the Hawkeye state right now as he seeks to develop a plan for Feingold to help candidates in the upcoming 2006 election. He is working on a volunteer basis for Feingold, according to an informed Democrat.

Feingold is beloved by many on the party's ideological left for his lonely opposition to the Patriot Act and his 2002 vote against the Iraq war. He is hoping to tap into the fundraising and organizational energy that former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean used to catapult himself from obscurity to the top of the 2004 presidential field.

Tewes is an experienced Democratic strategist with ties to Iowa -- he ran Al Gore's field operations in the state during the 2000 presidential caucus. He also has close connections to Feingold, having run the 1998 Wisconsin coordinated campaign when the senator narrowly won reelection over then-Rep. Mark Neumann (R) I don't think that I have exactly kept my preferences for Feingold a secret around these parts (and if I had kept it a secret, then it isn't a secret anymore). I have no special information on whether or not Senator Feingold will run for President, but I have to say that this is news that excites me very much.

Since I am sure that more than a few people will bring it up in the comments, I would like to mention that over the past year or so, I have frequently thought about the potential challenges a Feingold campaign would face. The most obvious of these challenges would be to face the onerous "electability" process question that the established news media, the party and progressive establishment, and even party and progressive grassroots force any "outsider" candidate to answer. In Feingold's case, the question would be phrased along the lines of "can a recently divorced Jew known for unusual and left-wing stances wint he Presidency?"

For what it is worth (which is technically nothing, since I am not getting a dime form Feingold or his PAC), I have my own answers to this question. You will find them in the extended entry.

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Democrats and Iran

The following story was written by Tim Dickinson at Rolling Stone. It discusses what the Democratic Party should do concerning Iran. I think he makes a reasonable argument. Your thoughts?

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The Most Useful 2008 Poll To Date

I am a big fan of the importance of activist straw polls, as is Hotline, but activists alone do not reveal the potential direction of a Presidential primary season. In the past, I have argued that before the actual primary season begins after the 2006 elections, polling firms should release national and statewide favorable / unfavorable polls of all potential candidates rather than trial heats, since such polls reveal a lot more about the potential of the various candidacies than any trial heat could ever do this far out. Fortunately, one of my favorite polling organizations, Quinnipiac, has now gone and done this for the majority of the potential Democratic field. The actual poll the released is a warm / cool thermometer rating, but really it is close enough.

The poll asked responders to rate candidates on a scale of 1-100, with 1 being the "coldest" and 100 being the "warmest." On the Dem side, they polled people on both Clintons, Kerry, Edwards, Gore, Obama, Feingold, Warner, Edwards and Biden. I wish they would have also done Clark, Richardson and Bayh, but oh well (had they done so, I think I could have done an early, first, crude cattle call). Here were the results of the potential Democratic candidates among Democrats:

High Name Iders among Dems
          Clinton    Kerry    Gore    Edwards
1-20         5         7        9        5      
21-40        4         8       11        6
41-60       19        29       28       27
61-80       30        33       31       30
81-100      39        18       17       12

<50         10        17       21       13
50          10        16       17       15
>50         78        62       59       52
DK           2         5        3       20
Mean      73.1      63.1     60.5     63.0

The Gore supporters around here didn't believe me when I argued that his favorables among Democrats were lower than Kerry's (many even made a sad version of the conservative argument that I was somehow aiding "the enemy" by even mentioning the idea), but maybe you will believe me now. Of the well-known potential Democratic candidates, Al Gore is the last popular among Democrats. He is certainly not unpopular, as he receives positive marks from Democrats almost three times as often as receives below average marks. However, among Independents, his numbers are terrible:

High Name Iders among Inds
          Clinton    Kerry    Gore    Edwards
1-20        29        24       29       14      
21-40       11        17       19       12
41-60       20        27       26       28
61-80       21        20       17       19
81-100      18         8        7        7

<50         39        43       51       29
50          12        14       15       16
>50         47        37       32       36
DK           2         5        3       20
Mean      50.2      45.4     41.9     49.8

I want to point out something about all of the high name Ider's here. First, the notion that Clinton is somehow "unelectable" because she is too polarizing a figure is clearly bunk. She has a higher favorability among both Democrats and Independents than John Kerry and John Edwards, which shows that she would clearly have room to grow on their vote totals. Second, I am pretty stunned to see that John Edwards only has an 80% name ID nationwide. People might just remember him as the guy who ran for Vice-President. Third, Gore's low favorable rating among Independents shows just how difficult any project to recuperate his image nationwide would actually be. The guy has been thoroughly trashed by the Mighty Wurlitzer. Of course, one of the main reasons Gore has suffered an image problem is because since 2002 he has become a far less cautious speaker, which is also the main reason why he has grown popular online (and one of the main signs that he doesn't plan on running again). The Republican Noise Machine will seek to viciously discredit any Democratic truth-teller, even though it is the same act of truth telling that will make someone popular online (not ideology, as reporters and even many people in the netroots like to believe. Hitting Republicans hard is what most netroots activists seem to really want above all else. Of course, ideology is a factor, just not the main factor.)

The lesser known potential candidates tell an equally interesting story:

Low Name Iders among Dems
          Warner     Biden   Feingold
1-20         2         4         3
21-40        5         8         4
41-60       11        15        11
61-80        8        15         8
81-100       2         4         4

<50          8        12         7
50           7         9         7
>50         13        25        15
DK          71        53        70
Mean      54.7      56.2      56.9

None of the Democrats listed here have a warm / cool ratio equal to any of the high name ID Dems. All of their numbers are lower, as are their "over 50" / "under 50" ratios. In the primaries, it will thus take a lot of work for any low name ID candidate to emerge as a strong alternative to any high name ID candidate. Of course, Feingold and Warner have a serious leg-up on Biden in this regard, Feingold because of his very strong online support and Warner because of his strong online support and tremendous fundraising potential.

I should note that while he isn't listed here, according to this poll Barack Obama has emerged as a Democratic figure equal in popularity to John McCain and Rudy Giuliani. In fact, Obama has higher Dem and Ind numbers than even Clinton, and even has higher numbers among Independents than the low name ID people have among Democrats (he even has a higher score among Republicans than Gore has among Independents). Given this, even though he is not going to run in 2008, it is imperative that we work to defend Obama's image, and that we encourage Obama to become a stronger voice for the Democratic Party. Republicans have long worked to trash every single leading Democratic voice, with the aim that we will have no good choices for Presidential candidates or national spokespeople. Clearly, they have not succeeded in trashing Barack Obama yet, even though they have started to try. He needs to be a successful leading voice for the party for a long time to come, so that one day he, or some Democrat of equal popularity, can bring an end to our national divisiveness, and operate as the leader of a new natural, national governing coalition.

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Why your vote counts -- John Conyers as House Judiciary Chair.

This is directed at anybody who thinks that their vote will not be important in the next election for whatever reason. It doesn't matter whether you are a Green disgusted at what you see as a lack of spine by the Democrats or a former Hackett supporter disgusted at what you see as an insular establishment who determines the candidates for Senate in smoke-filled backrooms. You are missing the key point as to why it is so important that you go to the polls and vote for a Democrat. You forget that a vote for a Democrat for Senate or the House is a vote for John Conyers as chair of the House Judiciary Committee.

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