Wisconsin's 2010 U.S. Senate race is the most important campaign nobody's heard about

William Browning
Yahoo! Contributor NetworkOctober 22, 2010
Russ Feingold's official portrait in 2006.

Two things fire up Wisconsin Republicans these days. First is the Green Bay Packers and second is the chance to oust Democrat Russ Feingold from the Senate seat he's held since 1993.

Ron Johnson and his supporters are trying to get enough support in the final two weeks before the election to send the businessman to Congress, according to Businessweek.

Feingold was originally seen as a lock for his fourth term, but polls see a completely different picture. Two polls in mid October tout the slim lead that Johnson has over the incumbent. Johnson is ahead by seven points, 52 percent to 45 percent as of Oct. 12 in one poll. Another shows Johnson with a slim 2-percent lead at 49 percent to 47 percent three days later. Johnson has had single-digit leads in polls for many weeks, but now the two are in a statistical dead heat as the difference in percentages is within the margin of error.

Perhaps the Feingold/Johnson debate on television Friday night from Marquette Law School in Milwaukee will make things a bit clearer. This will be the third and final time the two have met in a debate, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Maybe the reason the Wisconsin race hasn't gotten anyone's attention is for the lack of controversy. Both men have had spirited debates on the issues including health care, government spending, energy policy and taxes.

This is the first time Ron Johnson has run for political office; he owns a plastics manufacturing company. Johnson, like many candidates this year, is backed by the Tea Party and has stances that connect with many people. Johnson originally said he wanted to repeal health care reform but later recanted and said he wants to see it modified. Johnson also wants to start exploring for oil in the Great Lakes and believes that global warming is not caused by human activity.

Feingold has been a three-term senator since 1993. He has voted in favor of Obama's health care reform initiative and wants to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Political ads have been relatively tame compared to states such as Delaware and Nevada.

What's most interesting is that both men are trying to come across as maverick types that do not conform to Washington politics. Feingold says on his website, "no one in Washington thinks I'm part of the team." Johnson says in a television ad that there are 57 lawyers in the Senate and there needs to be more manufacturers (namely himself). Johnson has a unique style of a businessman-turned-college professor in his television ads. Johnson faces the camera and then writes on a ceramic board in several of his ads making it simple black-and-white what needs to be done to send him to Washington. Even his logo is catchy as the "o" in "Ron" is in the shape of Wisconsin.

In a state where the politics have been relatively calm compared to other Senate races, Wisconsin may be a maverick on the national scene if Feingold loses his seat. While Delaware and Nevada may have more prominent races for Senate another exciting one to watch will be in Wisconsin on Nov. 2.