WASHINGTON — Sen. Russ Feingold said he's closer to making a decision on a presidential race following this week's congressional elections, but still hasn't decided if the election results have made him more or less likely to run for president.
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"It pushes me in both directions, and I'm going to sit down and think about exactly what I want to be doing over the next couple of years," Feingold, D-Wis., said in a telephone interview late Tuesday night, when Democrats took control of the House and made a run for Senate control.
Feingold, who was the first senator to call for a timetable to bring troops back from Iraq, said he was buoyed by the message voters sent on the war. Almost six in 10 voters disapproved of the war in Iraq, and a majority said the U.S. should withdraw some or all of its troops from Iraq, exit polls showed.
"So it gives me the sense that what I've been talking about on this would resonate with the voters of this country, if I decided to run for president," he said.
Control of Congress
But Feingold added that he was also attracted to the idea of serving as part of a Senate majority - Democrats won control of the chamber with Democrat Jim Webb's narrow victory over Sen. George Allen, R-Va.
Feingold said Senate Democrats would have had increased clout even if Republicans had retained their majority because of the gains made Tuesday.
"The Senate being even close, along with a Democratic House, is a very exciting prospect, and extremely different than what I've dealt with most of the time I've been in the Senate," said Feingold, who is in his third Senate term.
Feingold said he could make a decision on a presidential run before the end of the year.
Positives and negatives
David Canon, a political science professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who specializes in Congress, said the election results could both boost and detract from a Feingold presidential run.
"On the positive side, this shows the anti-war message is resonating pretty deeply with the public," he said. "That's got to be good news for Feingold."
But having a Democratic majority in the Senate makes it tougher for Feingold to be an outside critic, he said.
"You have to put up or shut up," he said. "Now Democrats can't speak with multiple voices."
Iraq factor fade?
Norm Ornstein, a political analyst at the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington think tank, said that the election's anti-war message does put Feingold in a good position. But he said it's unclear what the public's attitude will be on the war a year from now.
"I do think we're going to end up with a public saying, 'We want you clowns to work together,'" Ornstein said.
On Wednesday, Feingold issued a statement saying he welcomed the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, adding, "If it were up to me, he would have been gone a long time ago."
"But Secretary Rumsfeld's departure is only a small step in fixing the larger problem that stems from the president's failed Iraq policy," Feingold said.
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