With former U.S. senator Russ Feingold's announcement today that he won't run for an open seat in Wisconsin, the way has been cleared for lesbian congresswoman Tammy Baldwin to launch a campaign.
Baldwin had waited on the conclusion of her state's recall elections earlier this month and then on a decision from Feingold, who led all polls, before making her own announcement.
Feingold held the door open for a future run for office but said it wasn't for him, this time.
"While I may seek elective office again someday, I have decided not to run for public office during 2012," he wrote in a statement on the website for Progressives United, a group he formed after losing reelection in 2010. "I am also well aware that I have a very strong standing in the polls should I choose to run again for the U.S. Senate or in a recall election for governor. After twenty-eight continuous years as an elected official, however, I have found the past eight months to be an opportunity to look at things from a different perspective."
The latest numbers from Public Policy Polling show Baldwin losing ground to potential GOP front-runner Tommy Thompson, the former four-term governor and Bush secretary of Health and Human Services. In a poll released Thursday, Thompson had an eight-point lead over Baldwin. That means he'd picked up momentum since the last poll in May, when he boasted only a one-point distance.
Thompson would be a formidable candidate with name recognition from a career of service, but he hasn't won elected office since 1998. His last campaign was for president of the United States.
Baldwin's fund-raising certainly shows signs of ambitions for higher office. She reported raising $502,000 in the second quarter of the year and had $1.1 million in cash on hand.