... if there is a recall election. I'm not predicting that the governor's antagonists will succeed in getting 540,208 signatures in 60 days, which is what they need to force an election. Once they've snapped up the easy signatures in Madison they've got to venture out to chillier places. For example, at yesterday's Packer game:
(Ha ha. The last guy in that video is great)
I'm only saying that if they get the signatures, Russ Feingold — despite repeated statements to the contrary — will step forward and run to take the governorship away from Scott Walker.
The fact that the signature effort may fail is just one of the reasons why Russ Feingold has taken the official position that he will not run. Yes, some people might be more willing to sign the recall petition if they knew the strongest-polling Democrat was ready to go, but the signature-gathering-effort would turn into a discussion about whether Feingold is preferable to Walker, and — as I read Feingold's mind — Feingold would prefer for people to leave him out of it and concentrate on how bad Scott Walker is.
By disclaiming the desire to take power, Feingold is able to present himself as a statesman, appearing at numerous anti-Walker events to bolster the morale of the protesters and, seemingly selflessly, to criticize Walker. Here he was at Saturday's recall rally. Here he was at the Walkerville protest in June. And here he was embodying the Wisconsin protests for Netroots Nation people. That was back in March, before he'd done much at Wisconsin protests (oddly enough!), but when folks outside of Wisconsin, like FireDogLake, were straining to connect Feingold to the protests. FireDogLake noted that "practically every rally in Madison has included some variant of a 'Feingold for Governor' sign."
Back then, Feingold had only appeared at — I think — one anti-Walker protest: On February 18th, he marched with some firefighters. That was 2 days after he announced that he was starting a new organization called "Progressives United" (which hasn't made much... progress), about a month after he signed on to teach "Current Legal Issues: The U.S. Senate" at Marquette Law School, and 3 months after he was humiliated by the loss of his Senate seat to a political newby, the tea partier Ron Johnson.
As the protest season unrolled, and Walker-haters chanted "Recall Walker" and carried signs picturing Feingold with the slogan "This is what a Governor looks like," Feingold had to be careful not to look too eager to grab the governorship. Under Wisconsin law, there could not be a recall election until early 2012, and the time-line had to be managed. Feingold figured out — I'm guessing — that he needed to stay in the background, act as though he wanted nothing for himself, and let the demand build. People would have to beg to run.
If and when the recall Walker campaign come to fruition, there will be a painful, embarrassing dearth of willing Democratic candidates. The cry will reach a crescendo: Help us, Russ Feingold, you're our only hope!
And then, not for himself, not because he lost the Senate seat, not because he'd like to set himself up for a run at the presidency in 2016, but humbly, out of a pressing sense of duty, for the sake of the People of Wisconsin, Reluctant Russ will step forward. Oh, the liberal love that will gush forth that day!
Will he win? I don't know. He could be rehumiliated. First, that tea partier Ron Johnson, and next, that weasel Walker!
But what else can Feingold do with himself? Teach more courses about law and politics at Marquette? No, he has big ambitions, and the most ambitious path leads to the presidency. Russ wanted the presidency in 2008, (and his campaign collapsed early). What is the one thing that would — by far — help launch Feingold to the presidency if anything is going to launch him? Executive experience — successful executive experience — running a state.
He can't wait until 2014 — when Walker's term runs out — to run for governor. He must have realized that when he lost his Senate seat. This recall is exactly what he needs to restore his political career. Note that he declined to run for the Senate seat Herb Kohl is vacating. Why? I think it's that he already had fixed his ambition on the governor position. Why? It would be too small an accomplishment to crawl back to the Senate, where Ron Johnson is sitting in his seat. And the Senate is not a good path to the presidency. Feingold learned that the last time around, in the 2008 campaign. You need executive experience (or you need to be Barack Obama). Senator doesn't cut it. Especially for 2016, after Barack Obama.
So you take over as Governor of Wisconsin. You bring peace to our state after all of this discord. The liberals lapse into a snooze of bliss. Realistically, they know you can't do anything, because the Republicans hold the legislature. All you need to be is our dear Russ, the liberal, who ended the pain that was Scott Walker. While the liberals are sated and sleeping it off, Russ will build his new reputation. He'll demonstrate bipartisanship, working with the Republican legislature, gathering in a few symbolic accomplishments. The economic outlook will probably brighten — with Walker's reforms remaining in place — and Governor Feingold will glow over every tick upward. Feingold will seem so mature and moderate, so responsible and effective, so intelligent... so excellent!
Blah blah blah...