Thursday, August 25, 2005

Feingold's guideline

After thinking on Russ Feingold's "guideline" deadline a little further, I have to give him credit. He's a player who knows how to play the game. The political game. He crafts his public persona around being your Senator, the maverick who listens to you. Behind that, though, Russ is a politician's politician. Before I get into this, a couple of quick notes. I will refer to December 31, 2006 as the guideline, even though guideline is just a softer word for what it really is-a deadline. Also, this post is not about whether Feingold's guideline is right or wrong, because I still think it is wrong. It is an analysis of the political strategy involved in it.

December 31, 2006 is Russ Feingold's guideline for Iraq, but make no mistake about it, he intends for it to be his launching pad. Stop to think about this a little bit. Under the very best circumstances, withdrawal by December 31st, 2006 is going to be extremely difficult. For the last 6 months of 2006, all we will hear out of the media will be about impending failure. As we get closer and closer to the guideline, Democrats are going to pick up that ball and run with it. They are going to fling accusations of failure and "losing the war" at Republicans at every opportunity. Now, what does that coincide with? Yep, the off-year congressional elections. It is possible that this strategy of pessimism could bring Democrats a net gain of seats in 2006. If that happens, Russ Feingold is going to be a very high profile and very popular Senator in his party. But even if it doesn't, Feingold will face a can't lose situation on New Year's Day, 2007. If we succeed, Feingold will be able to take the credit. If we fail to meet the guideline, Democrats will be able to tar Republicans with the word failure, but Russ will show his bi-partisan benevolence by extending the date. Either way, that puts Feingold in an envious position in 2007. He'll be a Senator with "Big Mo," which is important for a budding presidential prospect in the year before the primaries. He'll need 2007 to solidify his support, organize his campaign, and fundraise for his run, and with the guideline, he'll hit the ground running.

This guideline is almost a political "can't lose" for Feingold. That is, of course, if it gets passed. It is going to put Hillary Clinton in awkward position. She is going to have to either kill it or co-opt it, or else risk being out flanked by Feingold. Either way, it is a pretty cunning political maneuver. It is going to be interesting to see who takes what sides on this when Congress returns.

No comments: