The drama surrounding the presidential election was always expected to overshadow the Senate races across the country, but ours at home in Wisconsin deserves some extra attention.
Incumbent U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson and Democratic challenger Russ Feingold met in Green Bay for the first of two debates in Wisconsin’s U.S. Senate race this past Friday. This debate was particularly important due to major changes in polling numbers over the last few months.
After lagging behind Feingold by 5 points in September, Johnson quickly closed the gap in October. According to a recent Marquette University poll, Feingold is ahead with 46 percent of the vote, while Johnson remains within striking distance at 44 percent.
This recent shift gave the debates a greater sense of urgency as both candidates grappled over issues of health care, college affordability, national security and even presidential candidate endorsements.
After watching the debate, I have concluded Johnson and Feingold are correct on some policy issues but are wrong on others. As a Libertarian, I tend side on economic issues with Republicans, like Johnson, and political and social issues with Democrats, like Feingold. After the debate, I still felt no clear allegiance to either one of the candidates, but I realized each made valid policy points and had clear stances on important issues.
An instance in the debate where I stood in strong support of Johnson was the contentious issue of health care, particularly the Affordable Care Act — President Obama’s signature health care reform bill.
Johnson was effective in hammering home the point that the law continues to distort the health care market and burdens average Wisconsinites with high costs. According to the Wisconsin Office of the Commissioner of Insurance, health care buyers will see a 16 percent increase in the price of premiums.
Johnson also heavily emphasized Feingold was a vocal supporter of the law, and that his vote in favor of the law back in 2010 was key in securing cloture. The Senator should continue to exploit the unpopularity of the ACA to his advantage.
On the other side, I also viewed many of Feingold’s comments as favorable during the debate.
I laud him especially for attacking Johnson on his continued support for Donald Trump. Despite Trump’s campaign of bigotry and ignorance, as well as the recent lewd comments scandal, Johnson has retained his endorsement of the embattled presidential candidate.
Oddly enough, Johnson said during the debate that he would “support the Republican nominee” but refused to name Trump explicitly.
A principled Republican would take a clear stance on Trump and never support a candidate with such low character and clearly non-conservative views.
Feingold would be wise to expose Johnson’s support of Trump in order to win over the crucial moderate vote.
Whatever your stance is on the issues and candidates, it is clear that the Senate race will be hard fought. It will be a determining factor in which party seizes the majority in Congress this election cycle. While the presidential election may dominate the spotlight, don’t neglect this race. Its results will hit much closer to home.
The next debate will take place in Milwaukee Tuesday.
Christoph Bruning ([email protected]) is a sophomore majoring in journalism and history.