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UW Political Scientist: “All Eyes Will Be On Wisconsin”

Photo: UW-Madison political science professor Barry Burden says the Feingold-Johnson race for U.S. Senate will be carefully watched all across the nation. Photo credit: UW-Madison
Photo: UW-Madison political science professor Barry Burden says the Feingold-Johnson race for U.S. Senate will be carefully watched all across the nation. Photo credit: UW-Madison
May 28, 2015

MADISON, Wis. - Former Democratic U.S. Senator Russ Feingold wants his seat in Washington back, and he's announced he'll challenge the man who unseated him five years ago, Republican Ron Johnson. The election isn't until November of 2016, but UW-Madison political science professor Barry Burden says the race already has a very high profile.

"This is going to be one of the most-watched Senate races in the country," says Burden. "In an interesting state that sometimes votes Republican, sometimes votes Democrat; it's a rematch of the race from 2010, so a lot of eyes on this election."

Usually the incumbent has a big advantage in any political race. Burden says not in this one.

"Johnson is going to be at something of a disadvantage," he says. "Feingold has won several state-wide elections already; he has a lot of name recognition; he's running against an incumbent who has not yet established himself as a familiar figure to a lot of Wisconsinites."

Burden says Feingold's years in the Wisconsin senate before he was elected to the U.S. Senate helped make his name familiar to voters in Wisconsin.

Another interesting aspect of the race, according to Burden, is that Johnson, who was an unknown when he unseated Feingold, was the beneficiary of a national political wave five years ago that hurt Feingold.

"He was a vehicle for a lot of that unrest in 2010 in the Tea Party wave that swept over Wisconsin and a lot of other states," says Burden. "This time around, it will be a Presidential election year. Democrats do very well in Wisconsin in Presidential election years, and Feingold will have the benefit of being on that ticket with whoever the Democratic nominee is."

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI