- Associated Press - Monday, May 18, 2015

MILWAUKEE (AP) - In a story May 15 about Sen. Ron Johnson’s expected electoral rematch in 2016 with former Sen. Russ Feingold, The Associated Press erroneously quoted Johnson on their first race. He said Wisconsin voters “term-limited” Feingold in 2010, not that they “terminated” him.

A corrected version of the story is below:

Wisconsin’s Johnson faces a tough road to re-election

Wisconsin’s Republican US Sen. Johnson faces tough road to re-election against Feingold

By SCOTT BAUER and DANA FERGUSON

Associated Press

MILWAUKEE (AP) - Almost from the day Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson defeated his Democratic predecessor Russ Feingold five years ago, both sides have anticipated a rematch.

Feingold, who passed up an open U.S. Senate seat and two chances to run against Republican Gov. Scott Walker, announced plans this week to try to avenge his 5-point loss to Johnson.

For months, while Feingold pondered his decision, Republicans attacked him, anticipating he would get in the race. The National Republican Senatorial Committee in February blasted Feingold’s support for the federal stimulus plan approved six years earlier, saying it was worth noting as he was “plotting his return to power.”

The attacks from Republicans picked up in March, when Feingold stepped down from his position with the U.S. Department of State as an African envoy and began traveling around Wisconsin to talk with voters.

Republicans have tried to paint Feingold as a Washington insider with tenuous ties to his home state, pointing to his recently completed teaching job at Stanford University.

“The voters of Wisconsin term-limited Russ Feingold in 2010, but he’s back,” Johnson told reporters Friday.

Feingold’s campaign manager Tom Russell in a statement Friday said voters were looking for an “independent-minded” candidate like Feingold.

“Right now they have a senator that puts partisan ideology and the needs of billionaires and special interests ahead of Wisconsin,” Russell said.

The seat is a key target for Democrats looking to regain control of the Senate who see Feingold as their best chance to retake it. Republicans currently hold a 54-44 majority, with two independents who caucus with Democrats.

Democrats see hope for Feingold, because he’ll appear on the ballot in a presidential year when Democratic voters in Wisconsin historically far outnumber Republicans. A Republican presidential candidate hasn’t carried Wisconsin since Ronald Reagan in 1984 - when Feingold was a 31-year-old freshman state senator.

Even more troubling for Johnson, no Republican has won a Senate seat in Wisconsin since Bob Kasten defeated Gaylord Nelson in 1980.

Johnson’s win over Feingold was part of the tea party wave in 2010 that also put Republicans in control of both chambers of the Wisconsin Legislature. Walker also won election as governor for the first time.

In 2014, when President Barack Obama carried Wisconsin for a second time, voters also elected liberal Democrat Tammy Baldwin for an open Senate seat, picking her over former Gov. Tommy Thompson, a Republican who had won four previous statewide elections.

Baldwin’s win - a huge victory for Democrats - was all the more telling given that it came just five months after Walker won a recall election. Feingold, whom many Democrats wanted to come out of retirement to take on Walker, passed on that race. He also chose not to take on Walker last year when he ran, and won, re-election.

Another problem for Johnson is that recent polls show that even after six years in office, he remains a blank slate to many voters. Thirty-nine percent of respondents to a Marquette University Law School poll done in April had no opinion of Johnson. Only 26 percent had no opinion of Feingold, who was a state senator for 10 years before first being elected to the U.S. Senate in 1992.

That same poll showed that Johnson’s favorable rating sat at 32 percent, compared with 47 percent for Feingold. And in a head-to-head matchup, the poll showed Feingold beating Johnson 54 percent to 38 percent.

Johnson called the poll “completely meaningless” given that it was done 18 months before the election.

Johnson said Friday he expected the race to be close, but he was optimistic that the state’s Republican Party would help him win using grassroots campaigning.

Despite the positive numbers, Feingold has the weight of history working against him. Only two senators since 1956 have successfully won their old seat back after losing a re-election attempt.

___

Bauer contributed from Madison, Wisconsin.

____

Follow Scott Bauer at https://twitter.com/sbauerAP

Follow Dana Ferguson at https://twitter.com/bydanaferguson

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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