Politics & Policy

Wisconsin GOP Fires First Shot in Feingold-Johnson Senate Rematch

Russ Feingold and Ron Johnson debate in 2010. (Darren Hauck/Getty)

The fourth consecutive election cycle to feature Obamacare as a key issue has officially begun. Wisconsin Republican operatives just launched their first attack in one of the most crucial races in the country — the rematch between former Democratic senator Russ Feingold and the Republican who took his seat, Senator Ron Johnson — and the health-care law has given them plenty of ammunition.

“Voters deserve to be reminded why ‘Radical Russ’ Feingold’s extreme liberal agenda has already been rejected once for good reason,” Chris Martin, a spokesman for the Wisconsin Republican Party, tells National Review. Obamacare sits at the top of the list of negatives detailed on the new attack’s website, which is built in the style of a virtual office.

“Russ Feingold acted as the deciding vote on Obamacare, and was a top surrogate in Wisconsin for the failed law,” a click on an image of Feingold with the president reveals. “He claimed that it was ‘good for America and particularly good for Wisconsin’ — despite nearly $1.2 trillion in additional tax increases and fees.”

The blast comes on the heels of an April poll from Marquette Law School showing Feingold with a 54–38 lead over Johnson. Johnson’s allies attribute the gap to the fact that Republican governor Scott Walker has dominated the state’s political spotlight since his election in 2010, thereby depriving Johnson of some opportunities to achieve the name recognition that Feingold, a three-term senator, still enjoys.

“You can say Ron Johnson’s name-ID isn’t to the moon and back, but that gives Ron Johnson the ability to build his name-ID and build on his messaging to people who might not know him well,” Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus, who hails from Wisconsin, told NR in February. 

The state GOP is determined to ensure that voters associate Feingold’s name with his record of support for the president​​s policies.

The state GOP is determined to ensure that voters associate Feingold’s name with his record of support for the president’s policies. “Russ Feingold consistently supported President Obama’s reckless agenda, including his signature healthcare legislation which added nearly $1.2 trillion in taxes and fees,” the site says. “Obama and Feingold have worked together to push failed policies that hurt hard-working taxpayers and small business owners.”

On the other side of the ledger, Johnson introduced one of the most prominent GOP plans for a congressional response if the Supreme Court rules that the Obama administration illegally provided health-care subsidies to people who enrolled in Obamacare in states that used the federal exchange. 

Johnson’s bill would allow people who already receive subsidies through the federal exchange, including Wisconsin voters, to keep those subsidies until 2017. 

“In exchange for this concession, which temporarily fixes the mess created by the sloppily written and unlawfully enforced Obamacare, the American people should be allowed to reclaim some of the freedom Obamacare denies them,” he wrote last month in a Wall Street Journal op-ed.

The bill would repeal the law’s individual and employer mandates and eliminate the coverage requirements that led to the cancellation of hundreds of thousands of insurance policies.

— Joel Gehrke is a political reporter for National Review Online.

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