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Russ Feingold may enter the 2016 Senate fray

Former Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold just dropped a major hint about his political future.
Former US Senator Russell Feingold testifies during a hearing on Capitol Hill, on Feb. 26, 2014. (Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty)
Former US Senator Russell Feingold testifies during a hearing on Capitol Hill, on Feb. 26, 2014.

Former Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold appears to be dropping hints about his political future.

The Democratic lawmaker had been serving for the past 18 months as a special envoy to the African Great Lakes and the Congo for the Obama administration, but in a Facebook post on Tuesday he seemed to signal a potential return to stateside politics.

"For most of the rest of this year, I will be living at my home in Middleton, Wisconsin, from where I will travel the state extensively. I will listen carefully to my fellow Wisconsinites talk about their concerns, especially those involving their economic well-being. I will also seek their counsel on how I can best further serve my country and the state I love," he wrote.

Feingold has been considered a strong potential challenger to sitting Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, who defeated him by 5 percentage points in the GOP wave election of 2010. Johnson has been widely seen as one of the more vulnerable Republicans up for reelection in 2016 because Wisconsin has in recent years been a reliably blue state. 

Now that Feingold is leaving his post in the State Department, he seems well-positioned to stage a rematch. 

Still, the deck may be stacked against him. According to Roll Call, only 35 senators in history have ever served non-consecutive terms in Congress, and most of their victories did not come in the last two centuries.

If Feingold enters the race, he might be joined by another 2010 loser seeking redemption, Democrat Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania. Sestak is widely expected to take on sitting Republican Sen. Pat Toomey after narrowly losing to him six years ago.

Whatever his decision, Republicans are already pouncing on the liberal ex-lawmaker's statement.

“His decision to spend time at an elite university in California highlights his skewed priorities and further cements how detached Feingold is from Main Street, Wisconsin,” Joe Fadness, executive director of the Wisconsin Republican Party, told USA Today.

Meanwhile, many pundits speculate that Feingold may be the best option Democrats have to recapture a Senate seat in Wisconsin. As Sean Sullivan of The Washington Post writes, "Feingold has a loyal following in the state's sizable liberal base. After him, the Democratic bench drops off sharply in the state."