- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 13, 2016

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Don’t look for incumbent Sen. Ron Johnson at the Republican National Convention next week in Cleveland. He’s skipping the event, just as his Democratic challenger Russ Feingold is not attending his party’s national convention the following week in Philadelphia.

The candidates’ decision not to attend either convention - where they could have snared a speaking spot broadcast to millions nationwide - comes as a new poll shows their closely-watched Senate race tightening.

The Marquette University Law School poll released Wednesday showed Feingold leading Johnson by 5 points among likely voters and 7 points among registered voters. The race has tightened considerably since January when Feingold was up by 12 points over Johnson. Last month Feingold was up by 9 points among likely voters and 4 points among registered voters.

In the presidential race, the poll showed Democrat Hillary Clinton up 6 points over Republican Donald Trump among likely voters and up 4 among registered voters. Last month Clinton was up by 9 points among likely voters and 7 points among registered voters.

But neither candidate is well liked. Clinton is viewed favorably only by 36 percent of respondents. Trump is even worse off, with just 29 percent of respondents saying they have a favorable view of him.

That unpopularity, tied together with the tightening of the Senate race, helps to explain why Johnson and Feingold are skipping the national conventions where they would be closely tied with Trump and Clinton.

Instead, both Feingold and Johnson plan on campaigning in Wisconsin.

“Russ is running a grassroots campaign in all 72 counties here in Wisconsin,” said his spokesman Michael Tyler. “You’re much more likely to find him in Pardeeville than Philadelphia this summer. Russ looks forward to campaigning with Secretary Clinton right here in Wisconsin while Wisconsinites brace for the prospect of ‘The Ronald and The Donald’ show coming to town.”

Johnson’s campaign is delivering much the same message.

“Ron’s focus has always been on traveling across Wisconsin and working on the economic and national security concerns he’s hearing in every corner of the state,” said his spokesman Brian Reisinger. “That week will be no different — there are no votes up for grabs in Cleveland, but there are plenty back home.”

Johnson attended the 2012 convention and has endorsed Trump. He’s skipping the convention even though fellow Wisconsin Republicans Gov. Scott Walker and House Speaker Paul Ryan will be speaking. When Johnson spoke at the Wisconsin Republican Party convention back in May he did not mention Trump by name.

Johnson is far from the only prominent Republican skipping the convention. Other fellow senators in tough re-election battles skipping the Trump nominating events include Mark Kirk of Illinois, John McCain of Arizona and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire.

Feingold, a former three-term senator who supports Clinton, has attended previous Democratic national conventions but has also been critical of them. In 1996 he said that national party conventions had become “a corporate extravaganza.”

The Marquette Law School Poll was conducted July 7 through Sunday, sampling 801 registered Wisconsin voters. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.1 percentage points. The margin of error among the 665 likely voters polled was 4.5 points.


Follow Scott Bauer on Twitter at https://twitter.com/sbauerAP and find more of his work at https://bigstory.ap.org/content/scott-bauer

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