Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Voting begins; Feingold says GOP 'peaked too early'

 Sen. Russ Feingold at City Hall voting rally

 Today is Election Day, Oct. 4.

Sticklers will insist there are still 29 days before the Nov. 2 general election, but through the magic of state law and absentee balloting, voting began this morning at City Hall.

Sen. Russ Feingold joined State Sen. John Lehman and Representatives Bob Turner and Cory Mason for a short get-out-the-vote rally on City Hall's front lawn -- being careful to keep all electioneering signs at least 100 feet from the polling place in the City Clerk's office, where ballots arrived this morning.

City Clerk Janice Johnson-Martin, left, and her staff were busy instructing a stream of early-bird voters and collecting their ballots shortly after noon. They were too busy to have counted how many had already come in, she said.

The four candidates present at the rally outside, all Democrats with opposition this year, urged their supporters to vote early -- leaving them with free time to help the campaigns.

"Be sure to vote," said Turner. Said Mason, "The key to Democrats' victory in November is turnout, turnout, turnout."

But it was Feingold's rally, and most of the campaign signs displayed bore his name, as Democrats worry about recent polls showing the three-term senator trailing his Republican opponent, multimillionaire businessman Ron Johnson, by a considerable margin. Last week's Rasmussen poll, for example, put Johnson at 54 percent; Feingold at 42 percent.  

"Don't be discouraged by the polls," Feingold told those at the rally, "I've seen some that are encouraging." He might have been referring to a McClatchey-Marist poll reported just before the rally by CNN. Although it carried a discouraging headline -- "Poll Watch: Feingold re-election woes continue" -- the numbers were better for Feingold than Rasmussen's: 52 percent for Johnson vs. 46 percent for Feingold, "only" a 6-point spread (with a 4.5 percent sampling error).

In Feingold's three U.S. Senate victories, his winning margins were: 53% to 46% against Robert Kasten in 1992; 51% to 48% over Mark Neumann in 1998; and 55% to 44% over Tim Michels in 2004.

Speaking of Republicans in general he said, "They've peaked too early. They think all those people who voted for Barack Obama will stay home. They won't!"

Feingold recommended the absentee ballot route for voters, saying it was simple and easy: registration and voting in one step. "It's like getting a flu shot, only better," he said. And it ensures that the election won't be decided "by people spending their personal fortunes, or dominated by people from out of state."

Looking out at the crowd -- maybe 100 people -- Feingold said, "This doesn't look like an enthusiasm gap to me."

"At the worst," Feingold said, "this race is tied." He said Republicans are prematurely "dancing in the end zone."

Meanwhile, three nonpartisan groups -- the American Association of University Women, the Sierra Club and Community 4 Change (argue with the designation of C4C as much as you like) -- are about to announce their failure to get agreement from some Republican legislative candidates for any pre-election debates.

Neither Chris Wright, Republican candidate for the 62nd District Assembly seat held by Mason, nor Van Wanggaard, Republican candidate for the 21st Senate District held by Lehman, has agreed to a debate. The two were offered any date they preferred, but neither responded.

Rep. Mason introduced Sen. Feingold to his daughter,Eleanor Roosevelt,
who is 20 months old. There was some disagreement between them
whether little Eleanor said "Feingold!" (All I heard was "aiexhegl")

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