Beware Ron Johnson

Press reports this morning indicate that Sen. Ron Johnson will announce his bid for a third term next week.

This doesn’t surprise me… though if he had decided to hang it up, that wouldn’t have surprised me either. Truth is, I had no idea what the guy was going to do. Johnson is the oddest of ducks.

I do agree with him — it may be the only thing I agree with him about — that campaigns are too long. Maybe the most stunning non-campaign announcement in recent Wisconsin history was Gov. Lee Dreyfus’ back in 1982. Dreyfus dropped that bomb in late April of that year, only a little over four months before the primary and six months to the election. By contrast, some of the Democrats running to take on Johnson have been at it for over a year. This is largely due to the enormous sums of money they need to raise. Nothing’s good about that.

Anyway, back to RoJo. This is good news for the Democrats on two levels. First, the obvious one. A recent Marquette Law School poll found that 52% of voters were looking to vote for somebody else and his approval rating was only at 36%. If Johnson hadn’t run, chances are the Democrat would have faced Rep. Mike Gallagher, a much tougher opponent.

He’s running again. Democrats need to be careful what they wish for .

The less obvious good news is that this means that, if he keeps his word, Kevin Nicholson will now run against Rebecca Kleefisch in the GOP gubernatorial primary. Nicholson has said that he would run for senate if Johnson didn’t and for governor if he did. This makes for an odd campaign slogan, “I wanted be your Senator! Never mind! I want to be your Governor!”

In any event, Nicholson has some strong financial backers as he showed when he ran in the senate primary in 2018. He’s unlikely to overtake Kleefisch, but he’ll force her even further right, making it easier for Democratic Gov. Tony Evers to keep his office.

Still, nothing’s certain for Democrats. They’re likely to face strong headwinds in the mid-terms, especially if Pres. Joe Biden’s numbers don’t come out of the doldrums. And they should not underestimate Johnson as a candidate. Former Sen. Russ Feingold made no attempt to mask his contempt for Johnson in both 2010 and 2016.. and Johnson beat him both times. Johnson did surprisingly well in debates with the intellectual Feingold and Johnson’s TV ads were slick and very effective. It’s hard to respect this guy as a senator, but he must be taken seriously as a candidate.

And on another matter… The other day I worried about a scenario in which the Wisconsin Legislature takes over elections and awards our electoral votes to the Republican despite the popular vote. Today Speaker Robin Vos is quoted as saying that there was “zero chance” of that happening. Senate leader Devin LeMahieu has said something similar. Good for them. But let’s hope they keep their word. Don’t forget that Vos resisted calls for a partisan “investigation” into the 2020 election, but eventually caved and appointed Michael Gableman to pursue his wild goose chase at taxpayer expense.

And on yet another matter… We were sad to learn that Republican Sen. Kathy Bernier is not seeking reelection after 12 years in the senate. She has called Gableman’s investigation a “charade.” Her seat in northwest Wisconsin has been competitive. So there’s a chance that a Democrat could win it, but it seems more likely that a more extreme Republican will replace her.

And on still another matter… If any readers were planning to attend memorial services for Dick Wagner at Holy Wisdom this afternoon, those services have been cancelled due to the new COVID outbreak. I assume they will be rescheduled when things are safer.

Welcome to the 324th day of consecutive posts here at YSDA. Thanks for reading!


Published by dave cieslewicz

Madison/Upper Peninsula based writer. Mayor of Madison, WI from 2003 to 2011.

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