RUSS FEINGOLD AND THE EXECUTIVE.
I've long maintained that Governors beat Senators in Presidential contests not just because Senators often have complicated records to explain, but because legislators and executives speak differently. Legislators have to be able to talk in specifics to justify their jobs -- what legislation they would propose or support, why, etc. -- whereas executive candidates can speak in more general terms and allow their responses to the legislature to fill in the gaps. This is why John Kerry lost, I think -- he allowed Karl Rove to bait him into acting like a Senator instead of a President on the campaign trail.
The exception to this rule is Russ Feingold. I've had this inkling for a while -- it's why he has my tentative support for the 2008 nomination -- and it was solidified during his debate last year with Tim Michels. Feingold is not just more rhetorically skilled than Michels, as evidenced by his ninja-like takedown of Michels for having not actually read the PATRIOT Act, he spoke in more general terms, in more colloquial terms and in more congenial terms. Throughout the debate, as he sat at across the table from the poor newbie he was annihilating, Feingold had a broad, earnest smile on his face. It's part of the real, personal charm that's helped keep him popular far away from his home base on the west side of Madison. Feingold knows how Senators lose elections, even Senatorial ones sometimes, and he knows how to go the other way.
I wasn't sure that actually meant anything until now, though. It turns out that, since entering the Senate in 1993, Feingold has never opposed a Supreme Court nominee:
While the seven other Democrats on the Judiciary Committee had all voted against one or more Republican nominees for the high court, Feingold had, until Tuesday, voted to confirm every Supreme Court nominee, Republican or Democrat, to come before the panel.
I was annoyed by Feingold's votes to confirm John Roberts, but in light of this information and his committee vote against Sam Alito, I'm starting to see a picture of a man who values the power of the executive in a way most of his colleagues -- including John "Tap My Phone, Tap My Computer, Tap My Ass, Just Don't Let The Terrorists Get Me!" Cornyn -- don't. To be honest, I'm not entirely sure what to make of it. Feingold is a career legislator, but he's made his way without using legislators' tactics -- his first Senate campaign featuring a list of non-legislative promises written on his garage door and an ad in which he received an endorsement from Elvis.
The last legislator to run for President with that kind of style was John Kennedy. He was also the last President to enter office from a legislative job. National security issues will make federal experience extremely salient in 2008, and Feingold's characteristics may be just right to turn his candidacy into the perfect storm.
Now if we can just get these moronic Democratic primary voters to see that.