WASHINGTON (The Blaze/AP) — Democratic Party Chairman Timothy Kaine says he sees no slight in Wisconsin Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold skipping a campaign rally tonight where President Barack Obama is appearing on his behalf.
Kaine tells CBS's "The Early Show" that candidates "make their own decisions about these things." And Kaine, a former Virginia governor, says Feingold understands that Obama can energize the party's base.
Kaine says Obama is appealing particularly to college-age youths to become more active in the mid-term elections, saying "we just need to make them aware of the importance of these elections." Obama's standing in public opinion polls has been falling in recent months, and some Democratic candidates have been reluctant to appear with him.
But a story in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel might offer a better clue as to why Feingold wants to skip the event. According to the Journal, the area near where the rally is being held -- the University of Wisconsin in Madison -- is one of the most liberal in the state and possibly the country.
For example, in one voting ward next to the Library Mall where the president speaks Tuesday, Obama defeated Hillary Clinton 88% to 12% (Obama received 1,122 votes in Ward 45, Clinton only 160) during the 2008 Democratic primary.
In the general election against John McCain, Obama's majorities in certain Madison wards (not all of them campus wards) were as high as 93%, which the papers says are "among the highest figures for Obama anywhere in the country in precincts without a large black population."
"So when the president comes to Madison on Tuesday, he'll be returning to what was arguably the epicenter of Obama-mania in this state two long years ago," the Journal says.
That might explain why Feingold isn't attending. His Republican challenger, Ron Johnson, is leading the polls by an average of 8.4 points (and as much as 11 points in some polls). So at a time when Feingold is trying to appeal to moderates, and desperately in need of votes, being seeing in one of the most liberal areas with a very unpopular president might not be a good idea.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.