The great hope for Wisconsin Democrats has been that former Senator Russ Feingold would run in a recall election next year against Republican Gov. Scott Walker.  Since Democrats are likely to get enough signatures to force a recall, Democrats also will need a strong candidate to run against Walker, and Feingold was at the top of their list.

Democrats Plan B for Feingold was to have Feingold run for Senate, since Herb Kohl is retiring.

But as reported by JSOnline, Feingold just said no to both scenarios:

Democrat Russ Feingold has decided he will not be a candidate for political office next year, taking himself out of the running in 2012 for either U.S. senator or for governor in the event Democrats force a recall election against Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

In an email going out to supporters early Friday morning, Feingold called it a difficult decision but said he wanted to devote his time to teaching full time at Marquette Law School, finishing the book he is writing on the U.S. response to the Sept. 11 attacks and leading the political committee he founded, Progressives United.

“While I may seek elective office again someday, I have decided not to run for public office during 2012,” Feingold said in the email.

This is a very big blow to Democats’ hopes either of unseating Walker or keeping the Senate seat in Democratic hands.

Democrats and national unions poured everything they had into the Prosser-Kloppenburg and recall elections, and came up short.  Now they have been left on the dance floor by their biggest star.

2011 was a year Wisconsin Democrats hoped to put behind them, but now 2012 isn’t looking much better.