Why is that notable? For two — interconnected reasons: 1) Johnson’s Wisconsin seat will be one of Democrats’ top 2022 targets and 2) Johnson is, by far, the leading conspiracy theorist in the Senate.
Let’s tackle that second point first, with a look at just some of the conspiracy theories that Johnson has embraced in recent years.
Johnson’s tendency to not only believe but promote these sorts of conspiracies has led many Democrats to hope that he would run for reelection — under the belief that it would give them a better chance to win the seat than if Johnson kept his two term pledge and retired.
Even before Johnson’s announcement over the weekend, there were more than a half dozen Democrats actively running — including Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, state Treasurer Sarah Godlewski and Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry.
Numbers like those are not good for any incumbent less than a year away from a reelection race. But, as Charlie Sykes, a longtime Wisconsin conservative hand, writes in a recent piece on The Bulwark, he considers the incumbent to be the favorite. Here’s the key bit:
“Ronjon has to be considered the favorite for three reasons: (1) the national political environment, (2) the track record of ‘out-party’ incumbents in midterm elections in Wisconsin, and (3) the very real chance that Democrats will nominate a weak (read ‘unelectable’) challenger.”
Which is all worth remembering. After all, Democrats thought they had beaten Johnson in 2016 when they recruited former Sen. Russ Feingold into the race. But Johnson beat Feingold 50% to 47%.
The real question in the race may well be how much (or little) Wisconsin voters care about Johnson’s flights of fancy — and whether the eventual Democratic nominee can effectively use it to cast Johnson’s as out of step with the state’s voters.
One thing is clear: Johnson has provided lots and lots of fodder for that attack.