One of the most vulnerable Republicans in the Senate got a legitimate challenger yesterday. Former Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin announced he will run again to try to win back the seat he lost in 2010 during the tea party wave to businessman Ron Johnson. Senator Johnson was thought to be in grave danger of losing his seat even before he got a formidable opponent, with approval ratings in the low 30s. A recent poll before Feingold announced his campaign had a hypothetical matchup of Feingold versus Johnson, with Feingold up by 16 percentage points! While the reality lies somewhere in between that large margin, for an incumbent to be starting in such a poor position before campaigning has even begun is not a good sign. Wisconsin is a swing state with unique politics. Feingold, who previously represented the state for 18 years, has a good chance of regaining his seat during a presidential cycle where turnout will favor Democrats. Johnson will have a tough road to climb as he starts the campaign with $1.5 million in his war chest, one of the lowest amounts of any incumbent senators facing re-election. Johnson, who self-funded to the tune of $8 million in 2010, is reluctant to spend any of his own money this time around; hoping groups like Club for Growth will do the heavy lifting for him.
The Democratic presidential primary field stands to get a bit more interesting. Former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley is expected to announce his intention to seek the nomination on May 30 in Baltimore. The governor looks to be the most credible challenger to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's presumptive nomination. O'Malley is positioning himself as a credible and electable liberal alternative. Starting back in 2014, O'Malley started traveling around the early voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina to raise his profile while supporting Democrats in those states. We'll see if he can get enough financial support from Democratic donors to sustain any legitimate campaign.
Finally, here is a first world problem for political nerds! Pollsters and GOP officials are facing a conundrum; there are 19 Republicans seriously considering running for president but only 10 numbers on a phone. For pollsters who use automated polling technology, one of the most common forms of public polling, they can only have nine candidate options on the phone as the 10th digit is usually reserved for undecided. In the past, GOP officials have used polling numbers to decide who got invited to a debate but with so many contenders in the field it is impossible to use polling numbers. One example is a recent Fox News poll that had 16 different candidates where the leader Senator Marco Rubio received 13% of the vote. Since the margin of error was 5%, there was no significant statistical difference between the candidates in third place and 12th place. So far the criteria being considered by the Republican National Committee includes fundraising, campaign activity and some measure of polling. Needless to say, there will probably be some uproar from someone's camp when they get snubbed during this year's debate season.
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