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Russ Feingold's "I Did It My Way" Politics

By Walter Shapiro, Politics Daily - October 5, 2010

>RACINE, Wis. – After 18 years in Washington, Russ Feingold remains the senator who has built his career and his voting record around (hat tip: Oscar Wilde) the importance of being earnest. High-minded, idiosyncratic and sometimes exasperating to his fellow Democrats, the 57-year-old Feingold was the only senator to vote against the Patriot Act in the wake of the 9/11 attacks and this year was the only Democrat to oppose Barack Obama's Wall Street reform act, arguing that it was not tough enough.
But Feingold is facing the toughest re-election campaign of his career (although his 1998 victory was a squeaker), not because of his different-drummer political pedigree but because (eek!) he is an incumbent Democrat. Trailing self-funded Republican plastics manufacturer Ron Johnson, a newcomer to politics, in every published poll since July, Feingold is under heavy fire for his votes for the health-care reform bill and the 2009 economic stimulus. As Republican State Chairman Reince Priebus puts it, gleefully mingling his metaphors, "Johnson's caught on like wildfire – he's the flavor of the day."
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