The Wisconsin Democrat is known for staking out staunch liberal positions on some issues and for crossing party lines on others. But in the interview [with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel], he suggested that the Democratic Party's prospects for victory in 2008 would have less to do with tacking to the left or to the center, what region its nominee comes from or whether the candidate is from inside or outside Washington than with choosing somebody who can "connect" with voters.
He mentioned President Bush, former President Bill Clinton and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger as three politicians with different backgrounds and politics who shared that ability. He also acknowledged that the Democrats' past two nominees, Kerry and Al Gore, were perceived as lacking that touch.
"It's the person people can relate to, the person that makes them feel comfortable, seems to be sincere, maybe has some of the straight-type qualities of McCain," Feingold said.
"That's the kind of person I want to be our nominee. Whether or not I would ever fit that bill I think is a very open question," said the senator, although he said, "I hope that's my strength."
Saying Democrats have a tendency to "talk about wonky lists of issues instead of the real pain that families are feeling," Feingold cited the 1994 Republican Contract with America as an example of effective communication. "I didn't agree with them, but they had this nice direct way of talking about how the average person really feels about their government. And about common-sense solutions . . . It was a way of talking about things that made you feel that they had actually listened to people first."...
Do the Democrats have anyone better? I don't think so.
UPDATE: I don't mean that last question to imply that the Democrats are so bad, Feingold is the best. I really think Feingold is a great candidate. Anyone can consult the results of the last election and figure out that many people voted for Bush and for Feingold. So Feingold's argument quoted above really does make sense. Feingold might be more liberal than Kerry -- according to the usual way of totting up votes on various things -- but plenty of Wisconsin voters who rejected Kerry voted for Feingold. That includes me. Those of us here in Wisconsin have seen a lot of Feingold. I've watched him in a number of debates. He is an extremely strong and charismatic candidate. If I had to guess who is the smartest Senator, I'd guess Feingold. If I had to guess which member of Congress or Governor has the best plainly demonstrable record of good character and integrity, I would say Feingold. If I had to say which member of Congress or Governor would I be most willing to watch on television in debates and speeches and interviews over a long campaign season, it would be Feingold. In sum, Feingold is a great candidate.