Here in the cradle of progressivism, there may be a nightmare scenario for Democrats: Ron Johnson, the MAGA supporter who peddles conspiracies, may be close to winning a third term in the Senate.
Even his Democratic rival Mandela Barnes recognises the danger.
Before beginning a round of soggy fall door-knocking, the Democratic Senate nominee stated in an interview, “Going into it, we knew it would be tight, regardless of how stupid Ron Johnson has been.”
Democrats are injecting a lot of star power and money into the state after two failed attempts to unseat Johnson. Democrats are bringing former President Barack Obama to this lakeside city on Saturday and spending millions on the airwaves to push for a Barnes victory in a hostile national environment. Forget Johnson’s speculations on Covid-19 vaccinations, rampant voter fraud in the 2020 election, and Hunter Biden.
Additionally, the Democratic team reports that it would spend nearly twice as much on television and broadcast in October as it did in September, with Barnes raising more than $20 million in the third quarter compared to Johnson’s $12.3 million. However, party insiders worry that despite their best efforts, their top target in the Senate will remain in office, endangering their ability to maintain a majority.
Barnes had a polling advantage in the summer, but that advantage vanished as Republicans hammered him on the airwaves in September, raising doubts about whether Democratic funds will be sufficient to ensure his victory. While the Democratic funding is beneficial, Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) remarked, “it would have been nice if we had the means to get that message out a month sooner.”
The fact that few people are aware of Mandela Barnes is the biggest problem. State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski, who ran against Barnes in the primary but withdrew before the election, continued, “They just don’t know his tale. He has been defined by the opposing side, but I believe we are changing that. He is speaking publicly and sharing his experience.
According to a Republican close to the Johnson campaign, the campaign has informed national party leaders of their concerns with the surge of donations from Democrats. The official from the opposition party claimed that the Democrats have “never been able to accept the fact that, guess what, the people of Wisconsin have picked” him and that Republicans suffer from “Ron Johnson derangement syndrome.” A representative for the GOP campaign, Chris Hartline, stated that the organisation has been on the air since May and is still convinced that Johnson will win.
He was not made available for an interview by the Johnson campaign.
Before becoming the state’s first Black lieutenant governor in 2018, Barnes rose through the progressive political ranks as a leader in Wisconsin’s Working Families Party, a progressive party. Although the Badger State has elected pragmatic progressives like Baldwin, support for both party is essentially equal. Both former President Donald Trump and current Vice President Joe Biden won the state by less than a percentage point.
After endorsing Tom Nelson in the primary, Mark Becker, a former GOP chair for Brown County who quit the party through Trump’s ascent and now backs Barnes, claimed that Nelson’s opponents “all comprehended and knew that these advertisements [were] coming.”
“You know, it kind of goes to who we nominate… in these elections if [Democrats] can’t beat someone like Ron Johnson,” he remarked. “You won’t succeed in Wisconsin if you keep attempting to pick the most progressive of progressives.”
Johnson actually defeated Trump in 2016. Republicans, who never really committed to the election while they made investments in contests that seemed more favourable, were even taken aback by the senator’s 3-point victory.
Barnes has been described as a “radical leftist” by Johnson numerous times, including this week in comments he made to reporters following a closed-door news conference at the Beloit Chamber of Commerce. Johnson said that “he has radical opinions on most matters.” The truth is literally being pitted against lies and character assassination in this campaign.
Additionally, GOP attack ads accuse Barnes of wanting to “defund the police” and dismantle Immigration and Customs Enforcement while citing his support for removing cash bail, a common campaign theme against progressives. Barnes has previously shown his support for cutting ICE money and liked tweets advocating its abolition, but he insists that he opposes defunding or eliminating the immigration agency.
Even if the Wisconsin Democrat has a good message, it is “impossible to deny [the GOP advertisements] have an influence,” according to Mitch Reynolds, the mayor of La Crosse and a supporter of Barnes. Some of those GOP commercials, which characterise the Democrat as “strange” and “dangerous,” according to Barnes’ supporters, including Angela Lang, executive director of Black Leaders Organizing for Communities, are described as racist.
Barnes said that his policy “makes communities safer, it means people can’t just buy their way out of jail” in response to the question of whether or not his stand to stop cash bail has affected him personally. Barnes remained little when asked if he would back Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer or whether Vice President Joe Biden should seek reelection. Additionally, his campaign made clear that he was concentrating on problems that were discussed at dinner tables.
Johnson advised supporters to see the election as “dead even” this week during a telephone town hall, noting that “the one constant in the polls in my Senate races is that they’ve been wrong.” According to polls, Barnes had a lead of up to 7 points this summer but a loss of up to 6 points this fall.
Barnes would become the state’s first Black senator if he were to win, but before that, he must mobilise Black Milwaukee voters, something Democrats are hoping Obama’s visit will do. Barnes is paying careful attention to the city, canvassing at Sherman Phoenix, an incubator for Black-owned businesses, on the first day of early voting, and knocking on doors there.
In the last weeks, the party is placing a large wager on abortion, with Democrats emphasising the fact that women are registering to vote at a higher rate than men. Democrats have spent $10.7 million on abortion-related advertisements alone, according to Ad Impact, although Wisconsin currently has an abortion prohibition in place that was first passed in 1849.
Progressives have been Barnes’ base since entering politics, according to state senator Lena Taylor, who represents a portion of Milwaukee and whom Barnes unsuccessfully sought to unseat in the 2016 primary. Taylor also claimed that Barnes’ campaign has “hung its hat on the women’s vote” as a result of Roe v. Wade.