What Feingold’s decision says about the recalls and Big Mo

You know what the real results of Wisconsin’s recent recall elections were? Democrats won the seats everybody expected them to win, and Republicans won the seats everybody expected them to win.

True, the Dems thought they had a shot at a couple of others. True, Republicans thought they had a shot at at least one, maybe two others. But no. In the end, as expected, the expected happened.

That’s not stopping either side from spinning results their way. We say: look how much money they spent! Look at all the effort! And they still couldn’t take the State Senate back!

Our spin has the advantage of being true. Theirs would, too, if they’d just point out that Democrats hold two more state Senate seats now than they did before. But they don’t stop there.

Instead, they say: hah! Republicans are out of touch, Scott Walker is hated by the masses, and unionista liberal Democrat policies are what the people really want. The recall elections prove it!

Look out, Walker, here we come! Big Mo is on our side!

But then:

Democrat Russ Feingold has decided he will not be a candidate for political office next year, taking himself out of the running in 2012 for either U.S. senator or for governor in the event Democrats force a recall election against Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

In an email going out to supporters early Friday morning, Feingold called it a difficult decision but said he wanted to devote his time to teaching full time at Marquette Law School, finishing the book he is writing on the U.S. response to the Sept. 11 attacks and leading the political committee he founded, Progressives United.

Huh.

If the Big Mo really was swinging hard for the Democrats; if 2012 really was a slam-dunk one-on-one Shaquille O’Neal vs. my 9-year-old; then Russ Feingold is the closest thing to a sure thing since Little Orphan Annie sang “The sun’ll come up tomorrow.”

If Wisconsin’s Democrats have a superhero on their side, it’s Russ Feingold. He’s their best, biggest, brightest star, period. There isn’t really even a second-place. He’s their rockstar.

If he can’t beat whomever the Republicans put up for U.S. Senate…if he can’t beat Governor Walker in any recall election that might occur, then nobody can.

Could it really be that Feingold wants to “devote his time” to teaching and writing and activism? I suppose so. And hey, he was in elective office for 38 years. Maybe he’s just tired of it. Ready to move on. Ready to become the beloved elder statesman.

Or maybe Feingold — who famously declared “on to 2012!” in his concession speech last year — is now thinking: okay, maybe 2014. Maybe he’s read the tea leaves and saw that things just aren’t as slam-dunk as hard-core union members and Madisonian hemp-wearers would have us believe.

Maybe — just maybe — the recall elections were a bigger Republican/conservative victory than even we think they were.

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