Wisconsin is a swing state. Obama won the state both times he ran (with 56.22% in 2008 and with 52.83% in 2012), then Trump won (47.22% to 46.45%) and then Biden won (49.45% to 48.82%). Though Reagan won both times he ran, Dukakis, Bill Clinton, Al Gore and John Kerry all won the state after Reagan. The PVI is R+2 and the statewide elections— for for senators, governors, etc— go back and forth between Democrats and Republicans. This cycle, both incumbents are narrowly ahead, Democrat Tony Evers over Tim Michels (by less than a point) in the gubernatorial election and Republican Ron Johnson over Mandela Barnes in the Senate election (by a more significant 3 points).
At this point, the last thing Ron Johnson would want would be to make any news in a debate that not all that many people were likely viewing in the first place. But on Thursday night, he stepped right into it. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported exactly what candidates are always desperate to avoid— saying something crazy enough to be laughed at… loudly. Watch:
Lawrence Andrea reported that “During Wisconsin's final Senate debate Thursday night, U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson made a comment that surprised many in attendance. ‘The FBI set me up with a corrupt briefing and then leaked that to smear me,’ the Oshkosh Republican said. The remark drew laughs from some in the crowd as Johnson explained he's been trying to uncover and expose alleged corruption within the FBI… Johnson's comment came after Barnes claimed Johnson ‘had to be sat down by the FBI and warned that he may be a Russian asset. We cannot trust Sen. Johnson to protect democracy abroad because we can't even trust Sen. Johnson to protect democracy here at home.’”
[T]he FBI in August 2020… warned Johnson that he could be a target for Russian disinformation. But Johnson has dismissed that warning as a ploy.
Johnson, who is seeking his third term, has said the FBI briefing didn't include specifics and that he already knew of the threat from Russia. He said he believed he was being given the briefing so it could be used against him later.
That briefing came as Johnson spent much of 2019 and 2020— when he was chair of the Homeland Security Committee— investigating the activities of Hunter Biden, the son of now-President Joe Biden who sat on the board of a Ukrainian energy company.
Johnson has put a focus in recent years on the younger Biden's laptop, which was the subject of controversy in the run-up to the 2020 presidential election. He has accused the FBI of suppressing information about that device.
…The Oshkosh Republican has also looked into whether Ukraine had interfered in the 2016 election.
U.S. intelligence agencies determined Russia intervened in the 2016 election and that Russia tried to blame the election interference on Ukraine.
"I asked the briefers what specific evidence they had regarding this warning, and they could not provide me anything other than the generalized warning," Johnson told the Washington Post last year about the FBI briefing. Without specific information, I felt the briefing was completely useless and unnecessary (since I was fully aware of the dangers of Russian disinformation)."
The briefing also came weeks after Democratic leaders in Congress told the FBI they feared Johnson's investigation was part of a Russian disinformation campaign.
Johnson and his staff in 2019 met with Ukrainian diplomat Andriy Telizhenko as the senator pursued the theory that Ukraine had interfered in the 2016 election.
The U.S. State Department later sanctioned Telizhenko and six others for attempting to undermine Biden's candidacy.
The sanctions led Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon to say Johnson's investigation of Biden was "based on Russian disinformation." Johnson has said he vetted the information Telizhenko provided before using it.
Johnson has also been criticized by opponents for his 2018 trip to Russia with other congressional Republicans in which he spent the July 4 holiday in the country.
Just before the Thursday debate Chris Larson told me that “Right now in Wisconsin, if you flip on your television or search for a video on YouTube, you are immediately inundated with obnoxious ads that try their hardest to scare you with shadowy messages about crime. These ads are paid for mostly from 3 billionaires who see racist political division as the tithe they pay in return for $215 million in ill-gotten tax cuts they received from Ron Johnson when the GOP passed Trump's tax cuts for the rich. $22 million (and counting) in ads may seem like a lot to us poor folks but it is just a fraction of the estimated half a billion they're projected to receive from Ron Johnson's carve out. To keep that money flowing away from the public good and into their own pockets, all they need to do is prop up a climate-change-denying, hydroxychloroquine-promoting, insurrectionist-supporting, self-dealing, anti-vax, career politician who had an active role in trying to overthrow the last presidential election.
“What's even more bonkers is that even on the topics the billionaires bring up, Ron Johnson's record is abysmal. If he was actually worried about Mandela Barnes's proposal to match federal law in only allowing bail where the person is not considered a risk, regardless of how much money they have, Ron Johnson has had 12 years to propose a bill that would change the federal system so rich people can buy their way out of jail before trial. Shocking no one, he has not done that. Or if Ron Johnson was genuinely concerned about gun crimes, he wouldn't be complaining about there being ‘too many’ gun laws already on the books while advocating for more people having more guns with less oversight, something he did on Friday at the debate. In mass shooting after mass shooting, Ron Johnson has offered only thoughts and prayers for 12 years. He even filibustered debating the topic in the wake of the Sandy Hook school shooting.
“Ron Johnson is a unique kind of awful and all of the money being spent means we're not spending time talking about the topics that truly matter, much less the local legislative races which will determine the future of K-12 education, our universities, safe drinking water, and so much more. Luckily, there is a wide slate of local candidates who are carrying this message with them as they go door-to-door in doing the important work of bridging the divide that Ron Johnson and his wealthy donors artificially create.”
If you'd like to contribute to Barnes' campaign, you can do it here. It would be great replacing Ron Johnson with him, great for Wisconsin, great for America, great for mankind... great for everyone but Vladimir Putin and a gaggle of greedy, selfish billionaires who are funding his career.