Marquette poll shows Mandela Barnes with 7-point lead over U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson 

Mandela Barnes, Democratic candidate for US Senate

With a post-primary bump, Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Mandela Barnes surged to a 7-point lead in his race against Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, while Democratic Gov. Tony Evers was locked in a tight battle with GOP nominee Tim Michels, according to Wednesday’s Marquette University Law School Poll.

In the Senate race, Barnes was at 51% while Johnson, who is running for a third term, was at 44%.

The survey of 811 registered Wisconsin voters was conducted from Aug. 10-15. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.2% points for the full sample.

The partisan makeup of the sample was 30% Republican, 29% Democratic and 41% independent; with leaners the balance was 45% Republican, 44% Democratic and 9% independent.

Democrats have gone all-in on Mandela Barnes, the state’s 35-year-old lieutenant governor, to oust Republican Sen. Ron Johnson (Wis.) as part of their keep-the-Senate strategy this fall. Critics think it will take a lot to see that seat turn blue. Skeptical optimists call it a toss-up. But others see a nation in economic hardship over inflation, a myriad of GOP scandals and a flawed, unpopular opponent as encouragement that the purple battleground could actually deliver Barnes a victory.

Johnson’s GOP allies are already on the attack, aligning Barnes, a 35-year-old progressive, with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and calling him too “radical’’ for the purple state. 

But Johnson’s own strategy involves a more urgent task: rehabilitating his image. 

Sen. Ron Johnson speaks to a reporter outside of the Senate Homeland Security hearing room on Aug. 3, 2022.

Johnson’s persona has been increasingly defined by the controversial headlines he routinely captures over his statements on issues like abortion, his perpetuation of dubious and unproven Covid treatments, and even the recent FBI search of Mar-a-Lago, former President Donald Trump’s residence in Florida. Many of those headlines, he charges, are a result of his opponents and the media purposely contorting his words in an effort to demonize him. Johnson has also closely aligned himself with Trump, who won Wisconsin in 2016 but narrowly lost in 2020. This week, however, Johnson sidestepped questions about whether he’d invite Trump to campaign with him in the fall. 

A campaign aide said Johnson is most unnerved by Democrats’ depiction of him as a “billionaire bogeyman in it for himself” and at shots at his integrity, including two ethics complaints that were lodged against him. One, questioning his flights to Florida from Wisconsin, was dismissed. Still pending is a complaint over a $280,000 gift to a chief of staff — payments, according to his campaign, that were meant to cover the longtime employee’s cancer treatments. 

Regarding the Poll, Democrats and Republicans held starkly different opinions on issues that drew “very concerned” responses.

For Democrats, top issues of concern were climate change, 79%; gun violence, 77%; abortion policy, 73%; public schools, 53%; crime, 53%; inflation, 42%; coronavirus, 40%; taxes, 26%; illegal immigration, 19%.

For Republicans, top issues of concern were inflation, 91%; crime, 80%; taxes, 72%; illegal immigration, 67%; public schools, 60%; gun violence, 45%; abortion policy 39%; coronavirus, 9%; climate change, 6%.

On the U.S. Supreme Court decision to overturn the Roe. v Wade opinion on abortion, 33% favored the decision, while 60% were opposed. Sixty-two percent of Republicans favored the decision with 28% opposed, while 5% of Democrats favored the decision and 82% were opposed.

NBC and The Hill and The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel