After beating out a longtime Democratic incumbent in 2010, Republican Sen. Ron Johnson announced this week he would run for re-election in 2016.
Johnson said on Milwaukee’s WTMJ he would be seeking a second term because his mission of reducing government spending and debt is not complete.
“It may take beyond 2016, beyond [President Barack Obama’s] second term to get someone who’s going to seriously look at long-term solutions to those problems, and I think my vote may be needed then,” Johnson told WTMJ.
The radio announcement came after The Hill, a Washington D.C.-based newspaper, reported Johnson met with national Republican strategists about his future.
Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chair Mike Tate criticized Johnson for meeting with the National Republican Senatorial committee about his reelection.
“Johnson’s supporters live in Washington, breathe Washington and have no connection to the Wisconsin people he’s supposed to represent,” Tate said in a Monday statement. “This is a man who has clearly embraced the politics of big money.”
A poll from the Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling institute last month showed Johnson has a 37 percent approval rating and a 41 percent disapproval rating.
Johnson narrowly beat former Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold in the 2010 midterm elections, which led to the Republicans taking over the House of Representatives and reducing the Democratic majority in the Senate.
That win came as Republican voters were energized to vote for Obama’s opponents and also during a traditionally low turnout midterm election, Common Cause in Wisconsin Executive Director Jay Heck said.
Johnson’s re-election race matching up with a presidential race may help Democrats, but he also has an advantage as an incumbent, Heck said.
“He will definitely be favored to win re-election – incumbents always are – but 2016 is a presidential year,” Heck said. “Usually the voter turnout among Democrats tends to be higher.”
Wisconsin’s senators are regarded as the most split ideologically, with the conservative Johnson serving with Sen. Tammy Baldwin, who was elected last November.
Dietram Scheufele, a University of Wisconsin life sciences communication professor, said a number of 2012 Senate races were likely decided by former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney not coming out strongly against controversial positions, which he said changed moderate voters’ perceptions of the Republican Party.
In 2016, Scheufele predicted, the Republicans will likely pick a more moderate candidate like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie or former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. Such a selection would likely help Republicans running for Senate, Scheufele said.
But Johnson’s fate is also tied to who he is running against and how he will position himself before the election, Scheufele added.
Democrats are already looking for a candidate to run in 2014 against Gov. Scott Walker. Walker won his race in 2010 and defeated a recall attempt by larger margins in 2012, both of those races opposing Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.
Heck said people have speculated Rep. Ron Kind may run in one of the two elections. Kind, who has been a congressman since 1996, would be a shift from recent Democratic candidates, Heck said.
“The advantage [of him running], I think, is it kind of shakes up the dynamic where there seems to always be one candidate, usually a Democrat, coming from Madison or Milwaukee,” Heck said.