On Wednesday, NBC News reported that Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) is privately flustered and worried about the effectiveness of Democratic attacks on him as a wealthy elitist who uses his political office to enrich himself.
This comes as Democratic Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes mounts a campaign to unseat him in the midterms — and as the most recent poll from Marquette University shows Barnes leading by 7 points with likely voters.
"Johnson’s ability to reintroduce himself in a more positive light — his favorability has been on a steady decline since 2019 among voters here — is key to Republicans’ strategy to retain a Senate seat that could ultimately determine control of the chamber, where Vice President Kamala Harris is now the tie-breaking vote," reported Natasha Korecki. "Several Johnson aides and allies said the senator has privately fumed over Democrats’ depiction of him as a Washington insider who’s profited off of his position and lost touch with the average Wisconsinite — a message that Barnes is now helping to steer."
According to the report, strategists helping Johnson are eager to paint Barnes as an extremist — but are wary the messaging could backfire, as they did against another Black Democratic candidate, now-Sen. Raphael Warnock of Georgia.
"Despite the early zeal to compete against Barnes, Republicans are also approaching their Wisconsin strategy with some caution, with some privately acknowledging they’ve learned lessons from Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock’s January 2021 win in Georgia," said the report. "In that campaign, Republicans depicted Warnock as a radical and liberal — the same attack the GOP has already launched against Barnes."
"Johnson’s persona, meanwhile, has been increasingly defined by the controversial headlines he routinely captures over his statements on issues like abortion, his perpetuation of dubious and unproven Covid treatments, and even the recent FBI search of Mar-a-Lago, former President Donald Trump’s residence in Florida," said the report.
"A campaign aide said Johnson is most unnerved by Democrats’ depiction of him as a “billionaire bogeyman in it for himself” and at shots at his integrity, including two ethics complaints that were lodged against him. One, questioning his flights to Florida from Wisconsin, was dismissed. Still pending is a complaint over a $280,000 gift to a chief of staff — payments, according to his campaign, that were meant to cover the longtime employee’s cancer treatments. "
Johnson came under further scrutiny this week with his remarks opposing the Democrats' Inflation Reduction Act provision allowing Medicare to negotiate the price of prescription drugs as "punishing the pharmaceutical industry."
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