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One day after announcing he's running again, Sen. Johnson, Dems launch new ads

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Ron Johnson 2022 campaign ad.jpg

SAUK CITY (WKOW) - With Election Day still about about ten months away, Sen. Ron Johnson and Wisconsin Democrats released new ads Monday following Johnson's announcement he will seek a third term in the U.S. Senate.

The campaigns and parties will craft messages intended to woo voters statewide, especially in competitive battlegrounds within the swing state like Sauk County. Fewer than 1,000 voters was the difference in both the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections in Sauk County.

Outside the post office in Sauk City, Dan McDonald admitted he doesn't follow politics particularly closely. The 73-year-old said 2020 was the first time he ever voted with his inspiration being support for former President Donald Trump. McDonald said he wasn't sure if he'd vote in the 2022 Senate election.

"Ron Johnson, I can't say that I would vote for him and I can't say that I would not vote for him," McDonald said. "I don't know enough about him right now."

He's not alone. According to an October Marquette Law School poll, 22 percent of respondents said they had no opinion of both Johnson and Sen. Tammy Baldwin.

To influence those voters' opinions, and to fire up their respective bases, both Johnson and the Democratic Party of Wisconsin released ads.

Johnson's campaign launched two videos targeting Democrats on illegal immigration, inflation, the withdrawal from Afghanistan, crime, and unrest in the Summer of 2020. At the end of both ads, Johnson appeared at a kitchen table explaining why he was breaking his 2016 pledge to not seek another term.

"With the Democrats in total control, our nation's on a very dangerous path," Johnson said. "If you're in a position to help make our country safer and stronger, would you just walk away? I've decided I can't."

Democrats released a series of billboards statewide, including outside of Janesville and Wisconsin Dells. The ads portrayed Johnson as an out-of-touch millionaire who's put his own interests ahead of voters'. 

The party also held a roundtable with critics of Johnson who focused on his controversial remarks throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, including questioning whether the vaccine is safe and effective despite the majority of evidence shared by the vast majority of doctors and hospital systems nationwide.

"He has led the Covid disinformation charge, undermining our vaccine response and encouraging people to take dangerous alternative treatments," said Madison family physician Dr. Jeff Huebner.

The initial analysis gives Johnson an edge due in large part to the national landscape and history: the party that controls Washington typically loses seats in mid-term elections. 

However, there will be much more messaging between now and November, including in the lead up to the Democratic primary in August featuring a crowded field led by Lieutenant Gov. Mandela Barnes, Treasurer Sarah Godlewski, Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry, and Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson.

"The unfortunate thing is that you have a positive advertisement and then the next day, you see a negative advertisement," McDonald said. "Without hearing more and knowing more about him, I don't know what I'd do."

Capitol Bureau Chief