- Associated Press - Monday, October 31, 2016

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Millions of dollars poured into Wisconsin starting Monday for the final week of the election, as jittery Democrats tried to push Russ Feingold over the finish line in the U.S. Senate race against Sen. Ron Johnson, one of the key races nationwide that could determine whether Republicans retain majority control.

The GOP’s Senate Leadership Fund announced Monday it was putting $2 million in the Wisconsin Senate race to counter an equal amount a Democratic PAC started spending on the race in a late push to help Feingold.

Johnson has long been seen as one of the most vulnerable GOP Senate incumbents this election cycle, but his campaign has argued the race is tightening and Democrats were spending money late because they were getting nervous.

A super PAC backing Johnson also released a six-figure statewide ad arguing that Johnson should be elected to serve as a stop against Democrat Hillary Clinton as president. The ad by the Let America Work PAC was one of the more colorful of the cycle, featuring a cow and a steaming pile of manure to make its own. One Milwaukee television station refused to air the spot, saying it didn’t meet its standards.

The increased spending in the Senate race came as Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Clinton’s running mate Tim Kaine were both headed to Wisconsin on Tuesday. Numerous surrogates including House Speaker Paul Ryan, Chelsea Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders were also touring the state, making closing arguments and urge backers to vote now or on Election Day.

Democrats have been counting on a Feingold win in Wisconsin as they eye retaking control of the Senate. They must pick up four or five seats to do so, depending on whether they retain control of the White House.

Clinton’s campaign also launched its first Wisconsin television ads of the campaign on Monday in Milwaukee, Madison and Green Bay. Clinton’s Wisconsin campaign director Jake Hajdu said the ads, which Kantar Media’s political ad tracker showed cost $133,311, were designed to help Feingold and other Democrats.

Feingold was expected to campaign with Kaine on Tuesday for at least one of his stops in Appleton and Madison.

Trump and his running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, were scheduled to hold an evening rally on Tuesday in Eau Claire. Gov. Scott Walker was to join the rally for only the second time he’s campaigned with Trump in Wisconsin. House Speaker Paul Ryan was going to be campaigning for Republican House members in other states. Johnson, who backs Trump but has yet to campaign with him, did not immediately say if he would be at the rally.

Polls have consistently shown Trump trailing Clinton in Wisconsin, allowing her to focus her time elsewhere. She has not campaigned in the state since the primary in April.

Clinton’s absence from the state is noteworthy. If she does not make an appearance here before the election, it will be the first time since 1972 that one of the two major party candidates for president did not campaign in the state during the general election season, based on research by University of Wisconsin-Madison political science professor Barry Burden.

Wisconsin hasn’t voted for a Republican for president since 1984 and polls this year have consistently shown her ahead. Also, since early voting started in late September, Democratic counties have come in stronger than GOP ones. Voters do not register by political party in Wisconsin, so it’s difficult to draw too many conclusions from the numbers.


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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