Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson wins re-election, holding off Democratic challenge
Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson won re-election Tuesday night, the Associated Press predicted Wednesday, dashing Democratic hopes of flipping the swing state.
Johnson defeated Democratic Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes to earn a third term, despite an early electoral deficit and a series of controversial positions. Trailing by as much as 7 points in the August polls, Johnson hammered Barnes over the airwaves in September to close the gap, attacking him for his views on crime. Johnson complemented that message with criticism of President Biden’s policies on inflation and the southern border in the final weeks of the race.
The nonpartisan Cook Political Report rated the race a toss-up, and FiveThirtyEight’s final composite poll had Johnson leading by 3.3 points.
With the win in Wisconsin, Republicans tied with Democrats in the ongoing contest to decide which party will control the US Senate, with each securing 48 seats. The races in Arizona, Nevada and Georgia have yet to be decided.
Wisconsin Democrats he complained that the national party and the Barnes campaign did not respond quickly enough to the attacks.
Johnson presented a number of potential vulnerabilities for Democrats to exploit, but just as in his surprise election victory six years ago, the conservative businessman survived.
Johnson called the riots at the Capitol on January 6, 2021 mostly “peaceful protest” by people “who loved this country” and “indeed [respected] law enforcement.” He was too criticized for hiring a woman who made a false claim to be an elector.
He also spread many conspiracies Fr COVID-19 and vaccines that his YouTube account was briefly suspendedhe suggested broad social security changeshe was caught on camera calling for climate change “bulls***” and said earlier this year that Wisconsin has “enough jobs.”
Advertisements by Johnson and his allies attacked Barnes’ proposal for bail reform and his efforts to reduce the prison population. They also called him a “police defunding Democrat” and put his name on crime scene footage. Crime has emerged as a major problem in Wisconsin; the state’s largest city, Milwaukee, saw a a sharp increase in murders since the beginning of the pandemic.
Barnes said he does not support defunding, but said it could be parts of police budgets distributed to other community safety programs. He also implied support for repealing or defunding US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Johnson’s ads linked the lieutenant governor — who would be the state’s first black senator — to Democratic congresswomen often referred to as “the squad,” progressives often demonized in the right-wing media, despite the fact that they did not campaign with him. “I’m not running for the Senate to join a caucus or any group of lawmakers,” Barnes said in August.
Barnes supporters protested the ad as racist and urged Johnson to withdraw them. They also protested because of a letter from the state Republican Party it darkened Barnes’ skin. Johnson’s campaign responded by calling the accusations of racism “absurd,” and Johnson himself told a Milwaukee radio host in September that Democrats were “playing cards” by responding to his ads.
In an October debate, Johnson said Barnes has “a record of wanting to take away the police. And I know he doesn’t necessarily say the word, but he has a long history of being supported by people who are leading the withdrawal effort.”
Last month, Barnes tried to shift the race to Johnson’s anti-abortion positions, holding several “Ron vs. Roe” events. Recorded by former President Barack Obama ad supporting Barnes and headlined a rally for him and other top Democrats in Milwaukee on Oct. 29.
But that wasn’t enough to get Barnes across the finish line in what has emerged as a top political battleground.
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