Russ Feingold Down Eleven Points In Wisconsin Senate Race

One of the first polls out of the new partnership between Daily Kos and Public Policy Polling brings bad news for Wisconsin Democrats:

Public Policy Polling for Daily Kos. U.S. Senate. 9/18-9/19. Likely Voters. MoE 3.8% (6/27 results)

Ron Johnson (R) 52 (43)
Sen. Russ Feingold (D) 41 (45)

An enormous enthusiasm gap, coupled with a Republican nominee fresh from a decisive primary win and unsullied by the primary process, has catapulted Republican nominee Ron Johnson to a double-digit advantage over incumbent Democrat Russ Feingold, according to PPP’s poll of the state on behalf of Daily Kos.

In November of 2008, then-candidate Barack Obama swept through the Midwest, winning many states (including Wisconsin) by double digits. Today, the President’s numbers are nearly reversed in the Badger State: whereas Obama carried the state 56-42 in 2008, his job approval now is 41%, with 54% expressing disapproval. This is a tendency that has been mimicked throughout the Midwest, and may well explain why this region seems to be the one vexing Democrats the most this cycle.

The malaise with Democratic voters in the state is unmistakable, and is having a material impact on the races here. As our polling partner at PPP, Tom Jensen, noted:

Wisconsin is seeing one of the most severe enthusiasm gaps in the country.  If turnout matched 2008 Johnson would be leading Feingold only 47-46 and Barrett would be ahead of Walker 46-44.  Right now these races look very difficult but if Democrats wake up between now and November they have the potential to become toss ups.

It’s hard to see what can happen between now and Election Day that would close this enthusiasm gap sufficiently to make the race more competitive, which is why the only option would seem to be to go negative:

If Feingold can make the election about Johnson, he has a chance of resurrecting this race. Clearly, he needs to find some formula for bringing the Democratic base to the polls in order to win. Perhaps Johnson will prove himself to be the kind of villain to motivate Democrats into action.

If the only hope you have left is to demonize your opponent sufficiently to scare your electoral base to drag themselves to the polls on Election Day, well then you’ve already lost half the battle.

FILED UNDER: 2010 Election, US Politics, , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. wr says:

    The election isn’t simply a referendum on Feingold. It’s a contest between two candidates. So far, the Republican in the race has barely been touched — he’s a blank slate, because his primary opponents were so underfunded. Now it’s Feingold’s time to introduce the voters to Johnson. And this is a man who hardly needs “demonizing,” except in the Palin-O’Donnell sense that telling the truth about a candidate is demonizing him. His constant railing against government subsidies while stuffing as many of them into his pocket as possible is fair game for an election…

  2. tps says:

    Problem is Feingold has been trying to ‘introduce’ Johnson and just about everytime he does he shoots himself in the foot.