ABC News’ Mark Halperin and David Chalian Report: Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold has decided not to run for the Democrats’ 2008 presidential nomination. A favorite of many liberal bloggers and anti-war activists, Feingold was always going to be a long shot, especially because he would have a hard time raising money. He had done extensive travel and built up some grassroots support during this election year.
"Like many Americans, I am excited by the results of the November 7th election. My fourteen years in the Senate have been the greatest privilege of my life and I am extremely pleased with what we have accomplished. During so much of that time, however, we Democrats have not only been in the minority but have often been so deeply mired there that my role has often been to block bad ideas or to simply dissent. That is a very important role but I relish the thought that in this new Congress we can start, not only to undo much of the damage that one-party rule has done to America, we can actually advance progressive solutions to such major issues as guaranteed healthcare, dependence on oil, and our unbalanced trade policies," wrote Feingold in a letter sent to supporters early this morning.
No fewer than seven Democratic Senator have been mulling a potential presidential bid in 2008. It will be interesting to watch if, following Feingold’s lead, others feel emboldened by their new majority status and choose to commit themselves to that role in the Senate rather than hitting the New Hampshire and Iowa campaign trials with gusto shortly after the new Congress convenes in January.
Feingold’s departure from the "invisible primary" removes the one Senator considering a run who originally voted against the Iraq war. As a candidate, Sen. Obama expressed his opposition to the war at the outset, and Sen. John Edwards and Sen. John Kerry have since renounced their original vote for the war. Should they decide to run, all three of them are likely to try to claim the mantle of the most anti-war candidate now that Feingold has decided against making the race. Former Vice President Al Gore, who has not completely ruled out another run for the White House, may also seek to fill that vacuum on the left side of the Democratic field should he choose to run.
Sen. Russ Feingold was depicted as "The Hillary Slayer" on the November 2005 cover of ‘The New Republic,’ in an article that explored the concept that Sen. Clinton’s initial support for the war could make her potentially vulnerable in the Democratic presidential nominating process. Although Sen. Clinton’s criticism of the Bush Administration’s handling of the war has grown firmer and louder since then, Feingold’s decision to not run may be seen as a welcome development in her camp as it removes a candidate who may have been able to help whip up his liberal support against her.
Sen. Feingold plans to hold a media availability on Sunday afternoon in Racine, WI after completing his 1,000th "listening session" in his home state.