Why? Three words: The Jewish vote.
Let's not miss the forest for the trees. It's clear that Obama has a path to the Presidency in directions contrary to the traditional wisdom (namely, the Gore/Kerry states plus either Florida or Ohio).
And it's great that Obama can be elected President without either Florida or Ohio.
But why in the world would Obama want to completely ignore the "Gore + 1" strategy when he doesn't have to? When he can run his own "multi-state" strategy in addition to the "Gore + 1" strategy?
Al Gore won Florida in 2000, but Al Gore didn't win Florida in 2000. Much as I hate to give Joe Lieberman credit for anything, it was Joe Lieberman who won Florida for Al Gore in 2000.
Joe Lieberman energized the Jewish vote in Florida for Al Gore in 2000. I mean, Al Gore couldn't even carry his home state of Tennessee. But Al won Florida. In no small part because of Joe Lieberman.
In 2008, Russ Feingold, in my view, might well be able to pull off another Joe Lieberman in Florida. Russ Feingold immediately shores up a demographic that votes, and votes in significant percentages: the Jewish vote. Feingold could help Obama take the Jewish vote from about 65% to around 75%.
That additional 10% of the vote could be the difference in Florida. Or in Ohio. And that would sure help in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan, too.
With this as a base premise, let's look at some of the other advantages Russ Feingold would bring to an Obama ticket.
First, Feingold is a progressive's progressive. The man is charismatic. The man is a tremendous leader. The man always seems to make the right decision on issue after issue, vote after vote. Most importantly, if anything ever happened to Barack Obama, Russ Feingold could step into the Presidency with confidence and stature.
Iraq: For example, Feingold voted against the AUMF in 2001. He, too, like Obama, made the right decision on Iraq. Beyond this, Feingold was the first politician from either party to suggest a date certain to remove American troops from Iraq. In July 2007 Feingold moved to censure George Bush for his management of the Iraq war, accusing Bush of mounting an "assault" against the Constitution.
Campaign Finance: Feingold is a campaign finance bear, being the "Feingold" part of the McCain/Feingold campaign finance reform law. Feingold does not accept special interest money, and in his 2004 race, he even put a cap on money accepted from small donors. (Obama is floating around a campaign contribution cap idea right now.)
Patriot Act: What I personally like, Feingold was the only Senator to vote against the USA Patriot Act, the vote being 99-1. When nobody would stand up for our civil liberties, there was Russ Feingold fighting alone against fascism. And when that horrid law came back up for renewal in 2006, Feingold was able to get another 9 Senators to vote against it. The man makes exceedingly good decisions.
FISA: It was Russ Feingold who, in March 2006, introduced a resolution in the Senate to censure George W. Bush for the illegal FISA law.
Health Care: Feingold supports single payer universal health care. As we all know, it doesn't get any better than single payer. (Maybe he can turn Barack to the light?)
Same Sex Marriage: Feingold supports the legalization of same sex marriage, whether by marriage or civil unions. He even voted against Clinton's Defense of Marriage Act back in 1996. The guy will take a stand even when that stand is not popular or chic.
Progressive: To begin to wrap up this diary, Americans for Democratic Action (a voting ratings advocacy group), gives Feingold a 98% lifetime average for voting "liberal." Conversely, the American Conservative Union (another voting ratings advocacy group), gave Feingold a 12 on a scale of 0 to 100, where 100 is a perfect "conservative" score.
Check his record for yourself -- Russ Feingold is always on the correct side of the issues, it seems like. Isn't Feingold's record the kind of record a guy like Obama might want in his Vice-President? Wouldn't you want to feel good that your agenda could still be advanced if anything happened to you?
I'm not quite done. Russ Feingold is only 55 years old. With luck, Feingold could receive the baton from Obama in 2016. And even if Feingold didn't run for President in 2016 (or if he lost), he would still be young enough to be a tremendous leader and asset for the Democratic Party (like Al Gore is today).
So, to come full circle, with Russ Feingold as Vice-President, I think Florida might well be doable for Democrats, not to mention Pennsylvania, Ohio, and his home state of Wisconsin. Does Barack Obama necessarily need Florida to become President? No, he doesn't.
But with Russ Feingold in the fold, I think Obama covers his bases under traditional "Gore + 1" strategy as well as the Obama "multi-state" strategy. And why shouldn't Obama cover all the bases if he can?
In my view, Russ Feingold is the perfect running mate for Barack Obama in 2008.