Last year there seemed little likelihood there would even be a close contest in Wisconsin. The incumbent Russ Feingold is a Democrat who has been a Senator for eighteen years, in a state that has voted Democrat in the last six presidential elections (56% for Obama in 2008). Moreover, Feingold, co-sponsor of the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Refrom Act, is a liberal politician known for sticking to his progressive values. He voted against the Patriot Act setting out internal security measures after 9-11, opposed the war in Iraq, and has been a consistent voice against the influence of money in elections. His campaign has not been damaged by any personal scandal, and the general reputation he enjoys is of an honest and independent politician in Washington.
And yet, the latest polls show him trailing his Republican opponent Ron Johnson by an average of 7% in the polls. The prominent FiveThirtyEight electoral website currently forecasts a 94% chance of a Republican win. This is all the more surprising because the Republican candidate has no record in politics, deciding to run for his first electoral office last year as a response to the health care reform that Feingold supported.
Johnson, a successful businessman, has managed to turn the electorate’s disillusionment with the progressive ideology of President Obama to his advantage. Though not as nationally well known as Sharron Angle in Nevada, Rand Paul in Kentucky, or Christine O’Donnell in Delaware, he is fighting on the same platform that government is out of control, run by politicians who regard the people as their servants instead of the other way around.
It is Wisconsin that best illustrates the nation’s discontent with the progressive view of government.