By Lisa Femia, PPN
Around this time last year, you would have assumed that the Wisconsin Senate race was a shoo-in for Democratic incumbent Senator Russ Feingold, one of the most liberal Democrats in the Senate. He has held the seat for 18 years and has proved to be an important and influential member of Congress.
But things don’t always turn out like it seems they will. It is now likely that Feingold will not be re-elected this year. Conservative Oshkosh plastics manufacturer and millionaire Ron Johnson is currently leading in the polls with 52% to Feingold’s 45%.
Johnson’s political career started with a speech on business and regulation he gave at an Oshkosh tea party rally in October of 2009. In a July interview with the political publication Politico, he said, “I did not start any tea party groups, but I sort of sprang out of them.” He does not, however, distinguish himself as a tea party candidate because he does not see much difference between the movement’s ideals and those of the Republican Party.
Johnson has not received as much media attention as other tea party candidates. Christine O’Donnell, the Republican Senate candidate from Delaware, has had negative press for comments like, “They are — they are doing that here in the United States. American scientific companies are cross-breeding humans and animals and coming up with mice with fully functioning human brains. So they’re already into this experiment,” on the The O’Reilly Factor in 2007.
New York gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino has received attention for a series of racially insensitive and explicit e-mails that he sent. Because Johnson has not had any controversies, his campaign has flown under the media radar. Thus, his tea party-oriented campaign has had better success.
Johnson has also not hesitated to express his hatred of Obama policies. With this, he has apparently captured a growing, if not American, Wisconsin sentiment. Johnson’s ratings in the polls steadily grew until, in mid-September, he surpassed Feingold. During the beginning of October, Johnson’s ratings were around ten points higher than Feingold’s.
Now, with Election Day readily approaching, it seems Johnson is ready to take the win. Will the once traditionally progressive Wisconsin see a shift to conservatism?