The football prognosticators didn't give the banged up Green Bay Packers much of a chance on Sunday of defeating the high-flying New York Jets, but the Wisconsin team surprised the nonbelivers, squeezing out a 9 to 0 win. In less than 48 hours, will Wisconsin's junior senator defy the national political pundits and the polls and win a fourth term? I didn't bet against the Pack on Sunday and, for a couple of reasons, on Tuesday I'm not counting out Feingold either.
Only in this crazy political year could somebody of Feingold's caliber find himself in a tough race with an opponent like Ron Johnson, who has a supermodel-thin political resume. A well-to-do small businessman in Oshkosh, Johnson has largely self-financed his campaign. This is his first try for public office, and it shows. On occasions when Johnson has gone off a narrow script, he sounds like a guy who would have trouble winning a seat on the Oshkosh city council. In fact his hometown newspaper, the Oshkosh Northwestern, endorsed Feingold, in large part because of Feingold's extraordinary credentials, in lesser part because of Johnson's extraordinary limitations.
The Oshkosh Northwestern, in the Republican-leaning Fox River Valley, has been joined by almost all daily newspapers in Wisconsin, large and small, that have endorsed Feingold in the last ten days--papers in Green Bay, Appleton, Wausau, La Crosse, Milwaukee, Madison. Although it's arguable how much influence a newspaper editorial might have on voters, in Feingold's case a near clean sweep is a possible indicator that momentum has finally shifted in his direction.
And if Feingold pulls out a victory late in the fourth quarter, it won't be the first time. In his 1998 race against Mark Neumann, Feingold's own polling showed that he was behind in October. On the Sunday before the election, the panelists on Meet the Press all predicted a Feingold loss. He won by more than 35,000 votes.
Like the old-fashioned Wisconsin progressives Feingold personifies, he's as tenacious as he is idealisitc. I would not be suprised if he wins a fourth term on Tuesday, but it would be a great loss to the Senate and the country if he doesn't.