Wisconsin Senate–Is Johnson Rebounding?

Sen. Ron Johnson is clearly headed to defeat after numerous polls showed him down 10-15 points in a rematch against Fmr. Sen. Russ Feingold. However, recent polling have shown Johnson rebounding a bit, even with a Loras poll showing him leading Feingold 5 points with other reputable (Marquette) polling showing him in striking distance of keeping his seat.


Incumbent profile:

Ron Johnson (R)

First elected in 2010, 1 term


Challenger profile:

Russ Feingold (D)

Former U.S. Senator, 3 terms


Sen. Ron Johnson narrowly unseated incumbent Russ Feingold in 2010’s Tea Party wave. Elected from the slim liberal-leaning state of Wisconsin, ultra-conservative Johnson replaced ultra-liberal Feingold for this class 3 seat. Johnson proved to be too conservative for this otherwise moderately progressive state (Scott Walker brought jobs to WI but Ron Johnson did not) and Wisconsin voters have been wanting to remove him since 2010.


Ron Johnson never led a single poll in this race, not even polls conducted in 2014 or 2015, until early October when Clinton is leading Trump by a margin as large as 10 points. Theoretically, Johnson’s rebound happened att an impossible time interval. The Gravis/Breitbard poll immediately before the Loras one showed Feingold leading Johnson by 12 points, so what caused this 17-point shift in just one day?


I ran through the two candidates in Google Trends, but nothing too significant is told. The only notable surge in both candidates’ search interest graphs occured at the Johnson-Feingold debate, and both candidates got a significant but temporary surge. I also tried to obtain Johnson and Feingold’s campaign activities, noting anything controversial that could move the needle by as large as 17 points, but unfortunately nothing is found.


Therefore the only explaination of that poll is that it is an outlier. I am supposing that Johnson’s right to try bill had some impact on Wisconsin’s Senatoral race. Accoding to previous experience, Johnson’s boost is most likely temporary (he refuses to take moderate positions even when the national party abandoned him). It is extremely unlikely that Johnson would win this race but be careful to put this one safely in the Democratic column. For instance, LA gubernatorial election was rated Likely R before the blanket primary (spoiler: Bel Edwards tronced Vitter); it became lean D before runoff. (In that race, Vitter was never safe but pundits locked him)


Rating: Strong Lean D


Update (10/18/16):

Feingold up 12 in a poll showing Clinton up 8, confirming my hypothesis that the boost is temporary.

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