U.S. Senator Russ Feingold, D-Wisconsin, who many progressive activists had encouraged to seek the Democratic nomination for the presidency in 2008, has decided against making the race.
In a letter to be sent to supporters on Sunday, Feingold writes, “I want you to know that I’ve decided to continue my role as Wisconsin’s Junior Senator in the U.S. Senate and not to seek the Democratic nomination for President in 2008.”
Feingold, the sole senator to oppose the Patriot Act in 2001 and the first senator to advocate a timeline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, stoked speculation about a possible presidential run during the 2006 congressional campaign season. His call for the censure of President Bush for authorizing warrantless wiretapping was wildly popular with party activists — even if most of his fellow Democratic senators shunned the move. Feingold’s addresses to state party conventions and campaign events across the country were well received. And he began to develop the infrastructure for a candidacy by setting up a new campaign group, the Progressive Patriots Fund, which aided candidates around the country who shared his anti-war and pro-civil liberties positions.
But Feingold was always torn between the lure of a presidential run and his love of the Senate, where he has served since 1993.
The Wisconsinite, who has spent most of his Senate career serving as a member of the minority party, decided after Tuesday’s decision by the voters to shift control of the chamber to the Democrats that he was more interested in making the Congress work than in spending a year or more on the campaign trail in New Hampshire, Iowa and other early primary and caucus states.
“I’m sure a campaign for President would have been a great adventure and helpful in advancing a progressive agenda. At this time, however, I believe I can best advance that progressive agenda as a Senator with significant seniority in the new Senate serving on the Foreign Relations, Intelligence, Judiciary and Budget Committees,” the senator explained. “Although I have given it a lot of thought, I cannot muster the same enthusiasm for a race for President while I am trying simultaneously to advance our agenda in the Senate. In other words, if I really wanted to run for President, regardless of the odds or other possible candidates, I would do so. However, to put my family and all of my friends and supporters through such a process without having a very strong desire to run, seems inappropriate to me. And, yes, while I would strongly prefer that our nominee in 2008 be someone who had the judgment to oppose the Iraq war from the beginning, I am prepared to work as hard as I can through the Progressive Patriots Fund, and consistent with my duties in the Senate, to maintain or increase our gains from November 7 in the Congress and, of course, to elect a Democrat as President in 2008.”