Ron Johnson Bests Progressive Icon Russ Feingold in Wisconsin Senate Race

Once again, Feingold falls to a Republican wave.

Michael P. King/Wisconsin State Journal via AP

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


Republican Sen. Ron Johnson held onto his Senate seat in Wisconsin, riding the Republican wave that swept the Midwest Tuesday night. Johnson led the race with 52 percent of the vote when the networks called it around 11 p.m. The race is one of the surprises of the night as Donald Trump overperformed the polls and appeared to be winning the Badger State.

The contest was a rematch from 2010, when Johnson defeated three-term Democrat Russ Feingold, a progressive icon. This time, Feingold was vying for his old seat but was again defeated by a GOP onslaught. Heading into Tuesday, the Real Clear Politics average had Feingold ahead by 2.7 points.

Despite being the incumbent, Johnson painted himself as an outsider in a year that has seen voters turning on establishment politicians. Johnson trailed for much of the race but began to close on Feingold in the fall. That’s when outside money began to pour money into the race, much of it to pull Johnson over the finish line. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, more than $14 million was spent to defeat Feingold and more than $8 million against Johnson. In the final weeks of the race, outside groups backed by progressives and conservatives poured money into the contest, including Americans for Prosperity, which is funded by the Koch brothers.

Despite the outside boost, it’s likely Trump and his popularity with white voters pulled Johnson to victory.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate