And the answer is probably… Yes.
In one of the cruelest ironies of the 2010 election cycle, Russ Feingold’s state is being absolutely inundated with ad spending from outside sources, the same “soft money” sources that he and Senator John McCain successfully silenced with McCain-Feingold.
Of course, thanks to the Citizens United case, the US Supreme Court essentially gutted the law and left it toothless. And with the lessons learned from the 2006 and 2008 cycles, conservative political organizations are raising and spending money at record levels.
The people who were once silenced have returned for their pound of flesh, and one of their top targets is in serious, serious trouble.
Johnson owes much of his quick political success to the Tea Party. He picked up the support of the conservative movement earlier this year with fiery speeches at Tea Party rallies. "America needs to be pulled back from the brink of socialism and state control," Johnson told a Tea Party crowd in Madison, Wisconsin, last May.
Feingold has surprised many of his fellow Wisconsin liberals by making his own appeal for Tea Party votes.
"He's for the Patriot Act. I'm the only guy who voted against the Patriot Act. He's for these trade deals that shipped Wisconsin jobs overseas. I'm against them," Feingold said. "I agree with (Tea Party voters) on many key issues."
But Feingold voted in favor of health care reform. He's one of the few Democrats running an ad touting his vote. "That's something (Tea Party voters) don't like," Feingold said. "But you know why? Because they weren't told the truth about what's in it."
An architect of campaign finance reform, Feingold is being hammered by outside special interest groups running TV ads and billboards opposing his campaign. Johnson is also spending millions of his own fortune on his bid.
Is it cruel of me to enjoy this ironic twist of fate? Perhaps, but I don’t care. I’m enjoying it, anyway.
Feingold is trailing by anywhere from 8 to 10 points in mainstream polls, and remember what we’ve learned in the history of elections about what usually happens in the month of October.
The only thing that could have made this sweeter is Arizona putting up a legitimate contender against the other half of the team responsible for that unconstitutional gag on political speech known as McCain-Feingold.