Mr. Smith Wins in Wisconsin

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MADISON, Wisc.: Is Mr. Smith alive and well and in Wisconsin? Russ Feingold, co-author of that quixotic campaign finance reform bill, won re-election Tuesday despite holding himself to the bill's strictures: no soft money and no thinly veiled "issue advocacy" ads. He won despite the fact that Kentucky senator Mitch McConnell, looking to kill McCain-Feingold while it slept, pumped GOP party money into the coffers of challenger Mark Neumann until Neumann was outspending Feingold two to one.

Special Report TIME Midwest bureau chief Wendy Cole says Feingold compensated with hard work -- and a little luck. "Neumann ran a flood of negative TV ads that were a big turnoff for voters," she says, "Feingold might have gotten dragged into the mudfest, but he couldn't afford it." Feingold also concentrated his get-out-the-vote efforts in the Madison capital, where his local margin of victory -- 30,000 votes -- was the same as in the overall race. Feingold was no Jimmy Stewart; he approved a small number of Democrat issue ads paid for by the party. But Feingold showed the Beltway it's possible to win poor, and his bill will no doubt resurface in the Senate next year, stronger perhaps for having shrugged off a Lott/McConnell thunderbolt. It's a start.