Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold visited with Iowa Democrats this past weekend, raising his profile as a potential presidential candidate in the state which will host the first contest in the next campaign.
“In Wisconsin and all over the country as I’ve tried to go to places like Austin, Texas, and Nashville, Tennessee, and Vail, Colorado, all the same message. People say to me ‘Why can’t you Democrats stand up? Why can’t you stand up what you believe?'” Feingold said. “…We have strong beliefs. We just have to state them strongly.”
Feingold drew his loudest and longest applause from the crowd of about 100 Iowa Democrats attending the Third District Convention in Johnston when he outlined his call for a congressional censure of President Bush. “We shouldn’t be afraid to stand up to the wrong-doing of this Bush Administration,” Feingold said. “It is appropriate for us to be a loyal opposition and to stand up when they are doing something wrong.”
Feingold also ridiculed President Bush’s recent attention to the problem of high prices at the pump. “The president likes running around all of a sudden saying that we’re addicted to oil,” Feingold said. “I wonder when woke up and smelled the oil (in) the coffee on that one.”
Feingold drew handshakes from the party faithful afterwards. “Thank you. I hope you run for president,” one woman told Feingold. Feingold opened his Saturday speech not by talking about the 2006 election, but the groundwork that must be laid for the presidential election in 2008. “I’m here because we all remember 2004,” Feingold said. “It was really devastating, but what I found as I traveled Wisconsin…and then when I got around other places in the country, I heard people saying they were unhappy. They were sorry that we had lost but they wanted to turn it around. And one of the things they told me to do was to…get out there and make sure we have a 50 state strategy.”
Iowa’s first-in-the-nation Caucuses play into any candidate’s presidential campaign strategy. Iowa’s Democratic Governor, Tom Vilsack, is also mulling a bid for the White House in 2008, but Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller — a Democrat who’s held that job for 21 years — says Feingold could be competitive in the Iowa Caucuses. “One thing about the Iowa Caucuses is they’re open,” Miller says. “Russ Feingold’s a neighbor. He’s a very attractive candidate in a lot of ways, (an)impressive guy. He’s been a terrific senator on McCain/Feingold and many other things.”
Miller admits, though, that Vilsack would have an edge in Iowa if the state’s governor runs. Besides Hillary Clinton, other Democrats in the U.S. Senate considering a run for the presidency are Joe Biden of Delaware, Evan Bayh of Indiana and John Kerry of Massachusetts, but the Iowa Attorney General says the Wisconsin Senator may benefit from being a neighbor who is seen and heard by eastern Iowans who live on the Iowa/Wisconsin border. “Anybody (who) gets exposure in Dubuque, my old home town — the Democratic bastion in Iowa — that helps as well,” Miller says.
Feingold headlined fundraisers for two Iowa congressional candidates and spoke at Iowa Democratic Party conventions on Saturday.