Daily Bread for 8.7.22: Michelle Cottle Asks, and Answers, Why Ron Johnson Is Still Competitive

Good morning.

Sunday in Whitewater will see scattered thunderstorms with a high of 82. Sunrise is 5:53 AM and sunset 8:07 PM for 14h 13m 47s of daytime.  The moon is a waxing gibbous with 72.5% of its visible disk illuminated. 

 On this day in 1782, George Washington orders the creation of the Badge of Military Merit to honor soldiers wounded in battle. It is later renamed to the more poetic Purple Heart.

 Michelle Cottle asks Why Is Ron Johnson Still Competitive Despite, You Know, Everything? She succinctly describes Johnson’s liabilities, Mandela Barnes’s liabilities, and how Johnson will present himself to voters.


The Trump era has given us so many … let’s say, colorful … characters. But Mr. Johnson may be the senator who most fully embodies the detached-from-reality elements of MAGA-world — the guy most likely to spend his spare time fashioning tinfoil hats while cruising QAnon message boards. His irrational and irresponsible conspiracy mongering about matters such as the Covid vaccine, the integrity of the 2020 election and who was really behind the Jan. 6 riots (“agents provocateurs”? antifa? The FBI? Nancy Pelosi?) unsettled even some of his Republican colleagues.

Mr. Johnson has gotten so out there that his brand is suffering with the voters back home. His favorability numbers have been largely underwater for the past couple of years. A June survey from the Marquette Law School Poll showed 46 percent of Wisconsin voters with an “unfavorable” view of him versus 37 percent with a “favorable” one. (Sixteen percent responded either “Don’t know” or “Haven’t heard enough.”) He is considered perhaps the most vulnerable Republican incumbent on the midterm ballot, a tempting target for Democrats scrambling to keep control of the Senate.


Of the Democratic pack, the lieutenant governor is seen as having the best potential to juice turnout in blue enclaves such as Milwaukee and Madison. He is also seen as the easiest for Republicans to define as a radical leftist. He has expressed support for defunding the police and praised the lefty Squad in the House. There is a photo of him holding up an “ABOLISH ICE” T-shirt. There is video from an event in July at which he called America’s founding “awful.” Last November, during a virtual forum for Senate candidates, he observed that America is the wealthiest, most powerful nation on earth “because of forced labor on stolen land.”

Once the primaries are done, the Republicans’ attack on Mr. Barnes is expected to be swift and brutal.

How Johnson will run this race:

And, for all of Mr. Johnson’s inherent MAGAness, his paid media has been that of a more conventional Republican, hitting Democrats on inflation and public safety. Keeping the race focused on these policy areas — while steering clear of more exotic issues — is considered his key to victory.

Cottle observes that Johnson is gaffe prone (he is), but if the race remains close Johnson and independent PACs supporting him will by design say anything about Barnes to win to this race. It’s likely to be close all the way through. 

One can guess that progressive Barnes, like Sen. Sanders or Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, would not be a libertarian’s first choice for federal office. Johnson, however, would be no libertarian’s choice at all (one would write in a candidate rather than vote for Johnson, if Johnson were somehow the only candidate on the ballot). That MAGA Republicans cannot grasp this difference between candidates, or more precisely that they conflate progressive politics with threats to the constitutional order, is one reason that principled conservatives and libertarians are Never Trump.  

There’s nothing genuinely libertarian about Trumpism’s radical threat to liberal democracy, or its wall-building, child-caging, rights-abolishing, and trade-warring. 

Never means never. 

Wildfire rages in Washington state, town evacuated:

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