ICYMI: Ron Johnson and Republican Candidates at Risk With Independent Voters

Sep 19, 2022

ICYMI:  Ron Johnson and Republican Candidates at Risk With Independent Voters

“To me that’s the most existential threat to our democracy. And to think [Johnson] was even considering it makes him a non-starter.”

MADISON, Wis. — Today, a new AP report detailed Wisconsin independent voters moving away from Ron Johnson and committing to support Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes. Voters cited various issues with Johnson including his desire to cut Social Security and his stance on abortion.

AP News: GOP’s election-year standing with independents at risk

Key Points: 

  • Sarah Motiff has voted for Sen. Ron Johnson every time his name appeared on the ballot, starting in 2010 when the Wisconsin Republican was first elected as part of the tea party wave.
  • Nudged further by the June U.S. Supreme Court decision invalidating a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion, Motiff is opposing Johnson and supports his Democratic challenger, Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, in one of the most fiercely-contested Senate races this year.
  • Motiff’s evolution represents the challenge for Republicans emerging from a tumultuous summer, defined by the court decision, high-profile hearings on former President Donald Trump’s actions during the insurrection and intensifying legal scrutiny of his handling of classified information and efforts to overturn the election.
  • In politically-divided Wisconsin where recent elections have been decided by a few thousand votes, the outcome could hinge on self-described independent voters like Motiff.
  • That tension is playing out in Columbia County, Wisconsin, a constellation of tidy small towns surrounded by rolling dairy farm country, all within commuting distance of Madison.
  • Statewide, top-of-the-ticket candidates have won by barely a percentage point in the past three elections. Trump won Columbia County by a little more than 500 votes out of 33,000 cast in 2020.
  • In interviews with more than a dozen independent voters here over two days last week, many were rethinking their support of the GOP this fall.
  • Steve Gray, a self-described Republican-leaning independent “but never a Trump fan,” opposed the June court decision, because he backs abortion rights. But the 61-year-old school maintenance manager also resented what he saw as an unwelcome political power play by out-of-power Republicans.
  • The 29-year-old data analytics director for a Madison-area business said she had never affiliated with either party.
  • Mary Percifield is a lifelong independent voter who says the abortion decision motivated her to vote Democratic because she worries the court might overturn other rights.
  • “A right has been taken away from us,” the 68-year-old customer service representative from Pardeeville, said. “I question if a woman’s right to vote will be taken away. A woman’s right for birth control.”
  • [..] They have drifted back toward Democrats as efforts by GOP leaders to focus on the economy have clashed with Republican attacks on the Justice Department and Trump’s continuing complaints about the 2020 election
  • A shift by independents is particularly meaningful in Wisconsin, as Republicans work to overtake Democrats’ one-seat majority in the Senate.
  • Johnson, among the most vulnerable Republicans running for reelection this fall, is locked in a tight race with Barnes, Wisconsin’s lieutenant governor. Of the most competitive Senate seats this year, his is the only one held by a Republican.
  • Though Johnson dismissed testimony about fake electors as staff work which never never reached him, it reminded Christian Wood, an independent voter from Lodi, of Johnson’s opposition to certifying the election before Jan. 6. Johnson reversed course after the riot.
  • “It’s absolutely scary,” said Wood, who has often voted Republican. “To me that’s the most existential threat to our democracy. And to think he was even considering it makes him a non-starter.”