BURLINGTON — Saying he is running for office because he is “panicked for this nation,” U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson brought the official launch of his re-election campaign to Veterans Terrace on Thursday.
Speaking to more than 100 supporters alongside House Speaker Paul Ryan, Johnson sought to draw a contrast with former U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, his opponent whom Johnson defeated in 2010.
Johnson, a Republican, called Democrat Feingold a “career politician” who “only knows how to grow government.” He also criticized him for votes supporting the Affordable Care Act and against an amendment requiring a balanced budget.
“Economic growth is the No. 1 component of a solution. I know how to grow an economy. Senator Feingold doesn’t have a clue,” Johnson said.
The Racine County visit came with Johnson locked in a tough re-election battle against Feingold. Polls show Feingold in front and Democrats are eager to link Johnson with presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, whom Johnson has said he will support.
“I’d be panicked too if I were staring down the prospect of campaigning with Donald Trump, but Sen. Johnson has promised Wisconsinites ‘The Ronald and The Donald’ Show,” Feingold spokesman Michael Tyler said in an email. “Russ has been all across the state today at roundtables with seniors, listening to them on how we protect Social Security from senators like Ron Johnson who want to cut it and privatize it. Senator Johnson, on the other hand, is out at Republican rallies endorsing Donald Trump.”
Trump went unmentioned during the event but the billionaire still managed to cast a shadow over it. News broke during Johnson’s speech that Ryan, in a CNN interview taped just before the event, said he was “not ready” to support Trump.
While he didn’t address Trump, Ryan, R-Wis., told the audience “we’ve got a big project” in re-electing Johnson. It’s a high-stakes election, with at least one Supreme Court vacancy and the control of the Senate in the balance, he said.
“You want somebody who believes what you believe, who acts on those beliefs, but who’s an effective conservative,” Ryan said.
“To actually be a conservative and then to do the hard work of negotiating, of cajoling, of getting people to agree to your point of view and to get it done and to pass it and see it happen, that takes a special kind of person ... the kind of person we have right here,” Ryan said.