Will Russ Feingold try to get back into the Senate, now that his longtime colleague Herb Kohl has decided to retire?  Or will he inadvertently bigfoot other Democrats and damage prospects for a Democratic hold on the seat?  Feingold said that he’s considering all of these questions in the first indication that he has an interest in defending the open Wisconsin seat:

“I am looking at it, but I feel I should take some time to think this through,” said Feingold, the former senator who was defeated last fall for re-election after three terms. “For me the question right now is whether it’s a good idea for me to go back into this sort of life.”

After spending 28 years in the Wisconsin Legislature and U.S. Senate, Feingold called his break from politics “a healthy one for me to be doing something different at this point in my life.”

Feingold said he has been approached by Democrats in Wisconsin about running either for Senate or for governor. Republican Gov. Scott Walker isn’t up for re-election until 2014, though Democrats may try force a recall election next year.  The Senate seat will be open because Kohl, a four-term Democrat, plans to retire after 2012. Feingold has had little to say until now about his potential interest in the seat. …

Feingold said Thursday he didn’t want to draw out his decision in a way that slows down other Democratic candidates.

“My goal here is to make sure a Democrat wins this seat” and make sure it’s “somebody who will be a good representative of the progressive tradition in Wisconsin.”

I’m not sure if Feingold noticed it, but the “progressive tradition” took a beating in Wisconsin last November.  Feingold lost his own election by seven points to newcomer Ron Johnson, who explicitly ran against Feingold’s progressivism.  Republicans took control of the state government by winning control of both chambers in the legislature and the gubernatorial race.  The GOP-run government just announced a biennial budget that comes within $32 million of being in balance, the best proposal in over 15 years — and second place went to a Democrat proposal that came in at $1.5 billion in the red.

The Journal-Sentinel reports that Feingold polls well against other Republicans, referring to a PPP poll from last week.  The poll has a D+5 sample advantage (37/32), but the exit polls from Wisconsin in the 2010 election showed a near tie, 37/36 Democrats.  Feingold had a ten-point advantage in the poll which outstrips the sample advantage, but the more hard-Left Tammy Baldwin is shown as coming within a point of Thompson, which tends to give less confidence in the overall results. Furthermore, the other Republicans in the race have barely had a chance to become known yet.

Does anyone think that a state that narrowly rejected JoAnne Kloppenburg for the Supreme Court just weeks after the turmoil in Madison will hand the Senate seat to Tammy Baldwin or Russ Feingold?  Neither do I, and as the dust settles from the PEU reform and the GOP budget gets implemented, the “progressive tradition” in Wisconsin will become even more of a liability.