Wisconsin Republicans are waiting anxiously for Sen. Ron Johnson Ronald (Ron) Harold Johnson GOP sees Biden crises as boon for midterm recruitment Democratic activist Steven Olikara enters Wisconsin Senate race Wealthy donors benefited from lesser-known Trump tax break: report MORE (R-Wis.) to make a decision on whether he will run for reelection and are quietly considering backup plans in case he doesn’t run.
Johnson made national headlines last week when he told conservative commentator Lisa Boothe that he did not think he was the best candidate for 2022, leading many to ask whether this was foreshadowing a retirement. Chuck Schumer Chuck Schumer The major emitter that’s missing from climate negotiations Polluters would help foot the bill for conservation under Democratic spending proposal Oil producers push Democrats to preserve key drilling deduction MORE (D-N.Y.)," Wisconsin state Assembly Leader Robin Vos (R ) told The Hill. "He's probably the strongest candidate that we have.”
Democrats are salivating over the chance to run against Johnson, who has given Democrats plenty of fodder for political attacks. Gwen Moore Gwen Sophia Moore Wisconsin GOP quietly prepares Ron Johnson backup plans Pelosi picks Democrats for special panel tackling inequality Democrats offer bill to encourage hiring of groups hard-hit by pandemic MORE (D) endorsed progressive candidate and Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes (D) for the Senate race on Tuesday, calling Barnes "the best candidate to beat Ron Johnson."
Johnson has come under scrutiny for a number of comments this year including saying the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol was "peaceful," for dismissing climate change as bullshit at a GOP luncheon, and for organizing an event highlighting adverse reactions to the COVID-19 vaccine.
Wisconsin Republicans have publicly brushed off the controversies.
"When somebody in office is getting beat up a lot, it's probably because they're doing something worthwhile because they're getting a reaction from the other side," said Stephanie Soucek, the chairwoman of the Door County Republican Party
"We all know how purple it has become at this point. That might help you in the primary," said the GOP strategist. "You kind of have to almost tone down those culture war issues so that you're positioned for that general election here."
In the 2018 midterm elections, Gov. Tony Evers Tony Evers Wisconsin governor slams GOP over election probe: They’re ‘drinking the Kool-Aid’ The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by AT&T – Senate passes infrastructure bill, budget resolution; Cuomo resigns Wisconsin governor vetoes restrictions on absentee ballots MORE (D) narrowly defeated then-Gov. Scott Walker (R ), also by less than a percentage point.
"We're really at a point where our statewide races are going to be one-, two-point races," Scholz added. President Biden Joe Biden Progressive Democratic lawmakers urge Biden to replace Powell as Fed Chair Pentagon releases photo of last soldier to leave Afghanistan Overnight Defense & National Security — America’s longest war ends MORE in 2020, and the nonpartisan Cook Political Report rates the race as a "toss-up."
Other Republican names have been floated as possible replacements, including Rep. Mike Gallagher Michael (Mike) John Gallagher While Democrats change the rules, Republicans change the subject Republicans hit Biden over Afghanistan, with eye on midterms McCarthy: ‘There will be a day of reckoning’ for Biden MORE (R-Wis.), Marine veteran and former Senate candidate Kevin Nicholson, former Rep. Sean Duffy Sean Duffy First lady’s press secretary calls on Rachel Campos Duffy, Fox News to apologize for host’s comments Wisconsin GOP quietly prepares Ron Johnson backup plans Ron Johnson: ‘I may not be the best candidate’ for 2022 midterms MORE (R-Wis.) and former Senate candidate Eric Hovde.
Gallagher raised nearly $625,000 in the second quarter, fueling speculation that he was exploring a potential bid if Johnson does not run. Johnson is said to believe that Gallagher is the best candidate to replace him in such a scenario. But some Wisconsin Republicans have questioned Gallagher's statewide appeal.
Johnson has become the de facto leader of the Wisconsin Republican delegation given the departures of Walker, former Speaker Paul Ryan Paul Davis Ryan Democrats fret over Trump-district retirements ahead of midterms To cut poverty and solve the labor shortage, enhance the Earned Income Tax Credit Wisconsin GOP quietly prepares Ron Johnson backup plans MORE and Reince Priebus Reinhold (Reince) Richard Priebus Wisconsin GOP quietly prepares Ron Johnson backup plans Ex-Sen. Cory Gardner joins lobbying firm Democrats claim vindication, GOP cries witch hunt as McGahn finally testifies MORE , the former Republican National Committee chairman and chief of staff to Trump.
As a result, his departure would raise questions about the future of the GOP in Wisconsin.
For now, the party is anxiously awaiting Johnson's decision.
"The only person who knows what Ron is going to do is Ron himself. If he does," the first GOP strategist said.
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