Sen. Russ Feingold, in a close race, portrays himself as outsider
By Shailagh Murray
Add a new Democrat to the list of vulnerable incumbents: Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.).
As Republicans grow increasingly hopeful about knocking off the liberal lawmaker, Feingold released the first radio ad of his reelection campaign Tuesday, portraying himself as the same scrappy insurgent Wisconsin voters elected 18 years ago.
For months, political operatives have wondered whether Feingold would escape the wrath of an angry 2010 electorate that seems bent on running establishment figures out of office. He still breaks from his party with irritating regularity, most recently by opposing a financial regulatory overhaul bill he deemed insufficiently tough.
Yet after three Senate terms, Feingold hardly fits the outsider bill, and that may be sinking in back home.
Feingold's ad, entitled "Penny Pincher," reminds voters of his roots as a common-sense reformer. It portrays the senator as an "independent voice" who opposed the 2008 Wall Street bailout and has fought to eliminate automatic congressional pay raises. "In Wisconsin, we don't spend money we don't have," Feingold says in the ad.
A news release announcing the ad cites kudos from conservative groups that Feingold has earned over the years for seeking to ban earmarks and voting against pork-laden bills.
But the National Republican Senatorial Committee called the Feingold ad "desperate and misleading," noting that the senator also supported the health-care bill and the economic stimulus package, both among the most costly legislative initiatives Congress has approved in recent years.
"This November, Wisconsinites will hold Feingold accountable for his disastrous economic record when they elect a fiscally responsible Republican to the U.S. Senate," said Chris Bond, NRSC spokesman, in a statement.
This post has been updated since it was first published.
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