Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) decried what he said was a "systematic, conscious" effort by groups to "destroy" President Obama.
Feingold, who's facing a tough reelection effort this fall, blamed coordinated opposition to Obama and the Democratic agenda in Congress for some of the political and electoral woes facing his party this fall.
"A conscious decision was made by certain groups to destroy this presidency the minute it started," Feingold said in a question-and-answer session with The New York Times published Tuesday evening.
"People say it was the healthcare bill — no, it wasn’t. I go to every county every year and hold a town meeting," he added. "Within days of the president being sworn in, I had people showing up at my town meeting with hats on, with tea bags coming out, saying this is going to be socialism."
Feingold is among a handful of Senate Democrats facing a steeper-than-expected uphill climb to reelection this fall. The Wisconsin Democrat had been seen as a relatively secure incumbent during the early parts of the 2010 cycle, but recent polling shows GOP challenger Ron Johnson within striking distance of knocking off Feingold this fall.
The three-term senator acknowledged that if even he is in danger in the reliably Democratic state of Wisconsin, then Democrats might be heading for even bigger trouble this fall.
"Clearly, if somehow I lost, it would be a sign that we’re getting close to the line. We won’t lose, but it is something that is legitimate for me to mention — this seat could determine things," he said in reference to the balance of power in the Senate.
If Republicans win 10 seats, they will retake the majority in the upper chamber.
And while Feingold did not blame Republicans, he did single out "groups" for having looked to take down Obama, and with him, Democrats in Congress.
"I started coming back and telling my staff and my friends -– way back in spring of '09 -– that something is going on out there that is pretty deadly and pretty harsh even before we had any idea what the healthcare bill was going to be," he said. "There appears to be a systematic, conscious attempt to dismantle this president, so I’m less surprised than other people.”