Mandela Barnes leads Republican Sen. Ron Johnson by 7 points

  • Barnes has a 51%-44% lead over Johnson in the Wisconsin Senate race, according to a new survey by Marquette Law.
  • Johnson is running for re-election to a third term, while Barnes is hoping to unseat the GOP incumbent.
  • Wisconsin’s Senate race remains one of the best options for a Democrat this year.

Wisconsin Democratic Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes has a seven-point lead over two-term Republican Sen. Ron Johnson in one of this year’s Senate races, according to a new poll conducted by Marquette University Law School.

The poll showed Barnes with 51% support among registered voters in the Badger State, while Johnson received 44% support; three percent of those polled are not sure which candidate they would support in November.

Among likely voters, Barnes led Johnson 52%-45%.

(A Fox News poll released Thursday showed Barnes leading Johnson 50%-46% among registered voters.)

In Wisconsin, both Barnes and Johnson have performed well among their respective bases. But the swing state, which has supported Democratic candidates in seven of the last eight presidential contests, has become sharply polarized in other statewide races.

Among the group of registered voters, Barnes received the support of 95% of Democrats, with 4% of the party’s voters switching to Johnson.

Johnson won the support of 92% of Republicans, with 7% of GOP voters indicating they would vote for Barnes.

Independents gave Barnes a clear advantage in the latest poll, with the Democratic challenger leading Johnson 52 percent to 38 percent, a significant shift from June, when both had 41 percent support among this key voting bloc.

Electoral enthusiasm is quite high among members of both parties. Eighty-three percent of Republicans said they were absolutely certain they would vote this fall, compared to 82 percent of Democrats, according to the poll. Sixty-six percent of independents said they would definitely vote in the upcoming election.

Barnes and Johnson both performed strongly in their Senate primaries last week.

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) speaks during a panel discussion titled COVID 19: Second Opinion in the Kennedy Caucus Room in the Russell Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill on January 24, 2022 in Washington, DC.

Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson.

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Johnson has long enjoyed strong support among mainstream conservatives and remains a political ally of former President Donald Trump — making his renomination as the Republican Senate nominee a no-brainer. But Barnes spent most of the year in a competitive primary.

Until last month, Barnes’ top challengers were state Treasurer Sarah Godlewski, Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson and Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry, but all three dropped out of the race within two weeks and threw their support behind the lieutenant governor — who since 2019 is Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ running mate in a state with a GOP-controlled legislature.

Evers, who is running for re-election to a second term, leads GOP gubernatorial candidate Tim Michels 45%-43% among registered voters and 46%-44% among likely voters.

Barnes, a former state legislator, has gained a high level of visibility by criss-crossing the state to visit hometown areas Milwaukee to rural Bayfield County in his capacity as lieutenant governor.

But despite his lead in the polls, it won’t be easy to unseat Johnson, who despite a 38 percent favorable rating in the poll, managed to defeat former three-term Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold in 2010 and 2016 and is running for reelection is what could be a strong Republican midterm cycle.

While Barnes has highlighted his plan to expand the child tax credit and touted his support for federal voting rights legislation, Johnson has been constantly criticizing President Joe Biden on the economy and immigration, among other issues.

The race represents a big opportunity for both sides. Trump won the state in 2016, but Biden flipped it back to Democrats in 2020 — underscoring his political competitiveness.

And in the evenly divided Senate, where Democrats control the upper chamber by virtue of Vice President Kamala Harris’s deciding vote, the net gain in seats for the party would allow them to pass bills without having to win the required support of moderate Western senators Joe Manchin. Virginia and Kirsten Sinema of Arizona.

While Manchin played a key role in crafting the Deflation Act, which included record funding for climate initiatives, the lawmaker also single-handedly dismantled the broader Recovery Act, the now-defunct social spending package that was supported by most Democratic lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

Marquette Law School polled 811 registered voters from August 10 to August 15; the survey had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.2 percentage points.

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