Johnson is Some of the hottest voices in post-Trump Washington are shooting down opinions on Black Lives Matter and the Capitol Rebellion, enthusiastically blocking stimulus checks, and paying homage to controversy almost daily. He investigated the son of current President Joe Biden last year and argued with the new chairman of the Democratic campaign arm over claims related to the election. And while the senator said five years ago he would not seek a third term, he is currently undecided whether to run in 2022.
Officially, the Senate Republicans want him to run again. But Johnson has an icy relationship with Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell after the McConnell allied national Republicans turned against Johnson in the final months of his first re-election campaign in 2016. McConnell is looking forward to it Johnson will soon make a decision, according to those familiar with the matter.
Republicans want clarity because they are already defending a vacancy in a state that Joe Biden ran in the presidential race in Pennsylvania last year. Since the Senate is evenly distributed with 50 seats for each party, a single race in a swing state like Wisconsin could rule the majority in 2023.
But Johnson is taking his time and freezing what is arguably the most expensive and competitive Senate battlefield in the country. In a short interview he says: “I have a long time to make up my mind.”
And in a rare twist, the Democrats believe they could have a better shot against the incumbent who defeated former Senator Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) In consecutive competitions in 2010 and 2016.
The Democrats’ chances of moving GOP seats in Missouri and Ohio rose significantly after Republican Senators recently announced their resignation, resulting in fissile open primaries otherwise red. But in Wisconsin, one of the most closely-divided swing states in the country, Democrats intuitively argue that they would prefer to face Johnson again despite shocking their party twice on election day.
Wisconsin Democratic Party leader Ben Wikler said he saw an “explosion” of small dollar donations and volunteers following the recent spate of controversial headlines from Johnson. While Wikler warned that it would be impossible to predict the most viable candidates a year and a half before the election, he said defeating the senator could send a “broader message”.
“I hope Ron Johnson runs and loses so spectacularly that Republicans rethink the extreme, fearful, conspiratorial spirit of politics that has marked the country for the past four years,” Wikler said in an interview.
Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), The new chairman of the Senatorial Democratic Campaign Committee, does not see the term as a benefit for Johnson, who called Peters, a liar in December: “I see Wisconsin as a really good opportunity for us to get a seat. And I don’t think it matters if it’s Sen. Johnson or someone else who’s running. “
Johnson scoffed at the Democrats’ willingness to face him, saying he “didn’t care what they think”. He brushed off questions about whether the tenure was an advantage in the race.
“I’m not a political expert. I will cross that bridge when I get around to when I decide whether to run or not,” said he. Johnson, a businessman who, prior to taking office in 2010, never made a public statement Had applied for office, however, admitted that it was “always frustrating to be a senator”.
Former President Donald Trump has encouraged Johnson to run again, and Senator Rick Scott (R-Fla.), Chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said he was optimistic the Senator would seek a third term.
But many Republicans, including McConnell, remain silent about the delicate political alliance between them the leader of the minority and Johnson, said a senior Republican Senate adviser familiar with internal dynamics. Johnson believes McConnell cut bait on him too early in 2016, although Johnson won his rematch with Feingold and helped cement GOP majority during Trump’s presidency. Still, McConnell would support Johnson if he ran again, said a source close to McConnell.
“Nobody thought Ron Johnson could win the first time. Nobody thought Ron Johnson would be elected a second time, ”said one GOP senator. “If he has a better chance of being the Wisconsin Republican Senator than anyone, we’re for him.”
Chris Hartline, a spokesman for the NRSC, praised Johnson for “fighting the big government agenda of the radical left and attacking working class Americans” and said the committee will “fight aggressively” to support him if he runs again, which would contradict himself with his last campaign.
Some republicans Also worry that if Johnson is running his operation will be poorly prepared for the intense campaign. Johnson only had $ 560,000 in his campaign account late last year, significantly less than most established companies. He’s not expected to travel a great deal for the first quarter of this year, with reports to be presented to the Bundestag Electoral Commission on April 15th. Even so, Johnson is rich and could finance part of his campaign himself.
An extended period of time for Johnson to choose could cut potential replacements for the time to build their own campaigns when he retires. Johnson’s allies dispel these concerns, suggesting that it has not officially launched its 2016 re-election campaign through May of the election year, and that a curtailed elementary school could actually replace replacements if he chooses not to run, as he did in 2010.
Andrew Hitt, the chairman of the Wisconsin GOP, said Johnson could wait by early 2022, before a decision is made, and that the biggest impact would be those who could run to replace him.
“We have to win Wisconsin. We have to keep the seat in Republican hands and he won’t do anything to endanger that, ”said Hitt. “I’m not at all worried that for 2021 he will just sit back and relax and do nothing.”
Brandon Scholz, a Wisconsin political strategist who previously worked on GOP campaigns, said Democrats targeted Johnson as a villain who “is bold and says what’s on his mind”.
“There are many ways to use what he says. But don’t read that as “He’s a pushover,” Scholz said. “If he chooses to run, he’s persistent and hard to beat.”
Despite Johnson’s notoriety among Democrats, the tenure offers serious benefits, including fundraising skills, name identification, and existing political networks. And if Johnson were to retire, it would create an open primary late next summer that could spark intra-party friction – something Democrats face even in a seemingly costly and competitive nomination contest.
Two Democrats are already running – Milwaukee Bucks Executive Alex Lasry and Nelson, the executive director of Outagamie County. Lasry, the son of billionaire Bucks owner and Democratic mega-donor Marc Lasry, announced Thursday that he had raised just over $ 1 million for his campaign $ 50,000 from its own resources. Several other Democrats could run, including Treasurer Sarah Godlewski and Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes creating a crowded field for next year’s primary.
Johnson ran for the Senate as a political underdog in 2010, highlighting his professional career and spending nearly $ 9 million of his own money to win the seat. More recently, it has become controversial for investigating Hunter Biden as chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee and telling a radio interviewer last month that he was not afraid during the Capitol riot, although he would have been if the intruders ” Tens of thousands “would have been protesters from Black Lives Matter and Antifa. “
Dave Cieslewicz, the former Democrat The Madison Mayor said Johnson may have alienated some of the swing voters he’ll need, but it won’t be easy for him.
“We might be better off if he ran again for saying some incredibly stupid things and I think they are alienated moderate voters,” said Cieslewicz. But he warned: Democrats “always underestimate the guy”.