CLEVELAND ― Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson (R) has been trailing his Democratic opponent Russ Feingold for much of the campaign, but Republicans have held out hope that outside money could close the gap.
Those hopes took quite a blow on Wednesday, the day after Johnson addressed the Republican National Convention. The Koch-backed Freedom Partners Action Fund, which had previously reserved $2.2 million in air time for Johnson, yanked its ad buy completely.
A Democratic media tracker with access to the ad buy information confirmed the move. James Davis, a spokesman for Freedom Partners, said that despite pulling the air time, the group is still engaged on the ground in Wisconsin, and hasn’t given up on Johnson.
“We are realigning our television advertising strategy to ensure maximum impact across key Senate races,” he said. “We will continue direct citizen outreach through our grassroots activists, volunteer phone calls, digital media and direct mail. Last weekend alone Network grassroots organizations made almost half a million contact attempts to targeted audiences.”
On Tuesday, the National Republican Senatorial Committee said it was delaying its own ad buy on Johnson’s behalf. The NRSC had booked $1.3 million in ad time beginning in early August. It canceled the buy and rebooked $800,000 in October, Politico Pro reported, confirmed by the Democratic media tracker. The NRSC, though, insists its investment in the Wisconsin race will not be reduced overall.
Brian Reisinger, a spokesman for Johnson, said the campaign wasn’t worried. “We just had our strongest fundraising quarter ever and the polls show this race is tight. We are comfortable and confident and believe we have the support to run a winning campaign,” he told HuffPost. “The voters already fired Senator Feingold once, and they will reject him again.”
HuffPost Pollster, which aggregates all available public polls, has Johnson trailing Feingold by roughly 9 points, and national Republican operatives are privately skeptical that he can mount a comeback. Johnson, who believes that “The Lego Movie” is insidious anti-capitalist propaganda, knocked Feingold out of the Senate in the 2010 tea party wave.