WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Five years after losing his United States Senate seat to Republican Ron Johnson, Russ Feingold is looking for a rematch.
The former three-term Democratic senator announced in an online video posted Thursday, May 14th he plans to run for the Wisconsin seat in 2016.
"My desire to serve is stronger than ever," Feingold said. "I know that working together, we can make great things possible again."
Johnson defeated Feingold in their 2010 midterm matchup by five points, part of the Tea Party wave that swept many conservatives into office. This time around, Feingold could benefit from a presidential-year turnout in the Badger State, which hasn't voted for a Republican presidential nominee since 1984.
"This is probably going to be the most-watched U.S. Senate race in the country because Ron Johnson is viewed as the weakest incumbent in the U.S. Senate running for re-election. I think there's going to be intense interest in it on the national level. I think Wisconsinites are really going to follow it closely as opposed to sort of shrugging it off as playing politics. It's always good to have elections where there are choices -- where people know that what they vote for, they're going to get what they think they're voting for," UW-Milwaukee professor Mordecai Lee said.
Lee says Wisconsin voters tend to favor Republicans in gubernatorial election years when there's a lower turnout, and Democrats in presidential years when turnout is typically higher.
"In a sense, it's a whole different election. You might say that in gubernatorial elections any Republican candidate has an advantage and you might say that in presidential elections any Democratic candidate has an advantage," Lee said.
The Republican National Committee released the following statement:
"Russ Feingold has a track record of failed ideas that have taken the country the wrong direction. His far left policies are the reason Wisconsin voters rejected him before and are the reason they will reject him again.” - Fred Brown, RNC spokesman
Given the state's voting history, Wisconsin is likely to be a top target for Democrats looking to win back control of the Senate in 2016. Democrats need to gain four seats if they keep the White House -- in which case the vice president would cast tie-breaking votes -- or five if Republicans win the presidency.
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Soon after Feingold's announcement Thursday, the National Republican Senatorial Committee released a statement blasting his entrance in the race:
"Wisconsin families rejected Feingold's broken promises and his liberal record once, and they are going to do it again," NRSC communications director Andrea Bozek said. "Wisconsin voters know a desperate career politician when they see one, and that is why they will re-elect their independent leader, Ron Johnson." - Andrea Bozek, NRSC communications director
Senator Ron Johnson issued this statement:
"I welcome Russ Feingold into the Senate race. While I was building a small manufacturing business and creating real jobs in Oshkosh, Russ was building Washington into the gigantic, debt-ridden, tax-eating, unresponsive, and freedom-squashing government we have today. Russ Feingold wants more Washington, a more expensive Washington, and a more powerful Washington. I want to empower people. This campaign will give the people of Wisconsin a real choice.”