Us politics | After years of controversy and Democratic criticism, Ron Johnson tries to reposition.

The Republican senator must win over a declining pool of receptive voters in Wisconsin's difficult reelection race without alienating members of his party.




MINNEAPOLIS — The Wisconsin Republican Party has been telegraphing its desire for Sen. Ron Johnson's Democratic opponent, Mandela Barnes, to be the state's first Black lieutenant governor.


The 35-year-old progressive Barnes has already come under fire from Johnson's GOP friends, who have compared him to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and said he is too "radical" for the purple state.


However, Johnson's plan calls for a more urgent task: repairing his reputation.


"I want to introduce myself to others. In an interview with NBC News on Tuesday, Johnson said, "I'm very happy with what I've accomplished in life, both in the business sector and as a United States senator. I'd much rather win based on that message, so I'd much rather lead with it.


Johnson's ability to reintroduce himself in a more favorable light is crucial to Republicans' strategy to keep a Senate seat that could ultimately determine control of the chamber, where Vice President Kamala Harris is now the tie-breaking vote. Johnson's favorability has been steadily declining among voters here since 2019.


According to several of Johnson's aides and supporters, the senator has privately resented Democrats' portrayal of him as a Washington insider who has benefited from his position and lost touch with the typical Wisconsinite — a message that Barnes is now assisting in advancing.


Johnson said of Democrats, "Lies and distortions are successful, they're extremely excellent at it. "I don't want to participate in policies that promote self-destruction. I'm not going to change into what they have."


A strong base turnout will be crucial to winning in the battleground state, but the two-term senator cannot risk alienating members of his Livestreamparty if he is to have any hope of surviving in November. Barnes has 51% of the vote to Johnson's 44%, according to the most recent Marquette Law School poll, which was issued on Wednesday. The poll's margin of error is +/- 4.2 percent. Johnson and Barnes were separated by just two points in June, 46% to 44%, which was within the range of error. Charles Franklin, poll director at Marquette Law School, claimed during a livestream presentation of the latest survey that Barnes was "getting a great post-primary bump—not with partisans." He obtains it from independent sources.


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