Senator Johnson Asks: ‘Are We Going to Reward . . . Hard Choices?’

by Robert Costa

As he prepares to watch the returns tonight from his home in Oshkosh, first-term Republican senator Ron Johnson tells National Review Online that the recall elections will have national political implications, regardless of whether the GOP holds onto its state-senate majority. “It’s a very important moment not only for Wisconsin but for the nation,” he says.

When state supreme-court justice David Prosser won his reelection bid back in April, “that took a fair amount of wind out of the Left’s sails,” Johnson says. “But if the Left is successful in recalling the Republican senators, well, that will put the wind right back in their sails and will be a troubling sign. That’s why I really hope the vote goes the right way.” He hesitates, however, to make any predictions. “It seems like the Left has been better organized, they’ve had national help. Republicans have had national help, too, but it has not been as coordinated as the public-sector unions.”

Johnson frames the “message of today” as a question: “Are we going to reward elected officials who, after running on the idea that there is a problem with how government works, come in and make the hard choices and take the tough votes?” In Wisconsin, he says, he really hopes the answer to that question is “yes,” even after months of “intimidation like I’ve certainly never witnessed before in politics,” be it from Big Labor or progressive activists.

Should Republicans lose, “It would send a terrible signal to elected officials around the country,” Johnson says. “Instead of rewarding officials for making hard choices, in a fit of anger, we would show that we turn those politicians out immediately. It would be a message to politicians that if you make the courageous votes, your career in elected politics could be over.”

Johnson, who last year along with Gov. Scott Walker (R., Wis.) won high-profile statewide campaigns, acknowledges that Democrats have made the six recall contests “a referendum” on the governor and his fiscal reforms, which have curbed collective-bargaining power for public employees and streamlined state spending. “It sure seems to be turning out pretty well,” he says, and is optimistic that the more people learn about the effects of Walker’s work, the more they’ll stand with him. “Just look at the school districts that now are able to balance their budgets … That to me looks like a success.”

“Hope springs eternal,” Johnson says. “And if the public-sector unions do not win tonight, that’s a huge hit on them.”

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