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Struggling in Wisconsin, 'maverick' Russ Feingold cozies up to Obama

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Last week Feingold joined Michelle Obama at a luncheon fundraiser in Milwaukee, where he made it clear he was proud of his vote on health-care reform. He said he was “honored to have voted for President Obama’s courageous action to bring health care after 70 years of waiting.”

Maverick no more?

The direct overtures are unusual for Feingold, who for three terms has cultivated a maverick image. Wisconsin voters have a history of supporting public officials who do not necessarily follow the Washington agenda line by line. Feingold provided the sole vote against the USA Patriot Act in 2001, and he was one of the few senators who voted against invading Iraq. Since Obama has taken office, Feingold's views on gun control have sided more with Republicans, and he was one of the few Democrats who voted against confirming Timothy Geithner as US Treasury secretary.

Mr. Burden calls Feingold “the least loyal of the Democrats in the Senate,” which in this current race puts him in a tricky spot. “His maverick reputation helps him with some voters and hurts him with others,” Burden says. “You can say, ‘I’m not working in lock-step with the Democratic Party,’ but on the other hand, that’s not a good message when you’re trying to crank out the Democratic base to vote. He’s stuck in a funny place.”

The Republican opposition is taking aim at Feingold’s growing interest in sharing the stage with A-list Democrats in the last throes of the race.

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