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Farewell to Feingold?

Businessman Ron Johnson aims for an upset.

Aug 9, 2010, Vol. 15, No. 44 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
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But unlike the Kentucky and Nevada GOP candidates, Johnson hasn’t committed any big gaffes. Johnson says the suggestion that he doesn’t support the Civil Rights Act is ridiculous, and he’s straightforward about his support for entitlement reform. Johnson calls Paul Ryan “courageous” for trying to solve our fiscal problems and admires senators Jim DeMint, Judd Gregg, and Tom Coburn. “I am serious about tackling these issues,” says Johnson, “but it is not my life’s ambition to be a senator.”

Like such conservative stalwarts, Johnson is primarily interested in fiscal issues, though he doesn’t shy away from other topics as well. On Afghanistan, Johnson says, “You don’t go into war with a timeline. You go into war with a plan to win and a commitment to win.” (Feingold sponsored an amendment to create a timeline for withdrawal from Afghanistan that got the support of only 18 senators.) On immigration, Johnson says, “That is the biggest surprise as I’ve traveled all over the state—how much of a hot button the issue is.” People are outraged, he says, that “we’re paying out welfare benefits to people in the country illegally.” (Feingold voted against a measure to stop the federal lawsuit against Arizona’s immigration law.) 

Johnson’s biggest liability may be a tendency to speak honestly. Though Democrats blasted him for likening Social Security to a “Ponzi scheme,” Johnson wouldn’t soften his point. “The problem is that Social Security funds have been spent,” he told the Wall Street Journal in July. “They’re gone. I’m just describing the problem.” 

Johnson may have opened himself up to an even stronger Democratic line of attack in our conversations. Brett Favre is regarded as a traitor by many Wisconsinites for playing for the Minnesota Vikings. But Johnson, a big Green Bay Packers fan, admits that once the Packers were out of the playoffs last year he was pulling for Favre to win. “He plays the game with such joy,” says Johnson. “I wanted to see Brett Favre win. I took it probably every bit as hard when he threw that interception in the last play of the Viking [playoff] game.” The way this campaign is going, look for a Russ Feingold ad next week depicting Ron Johnson in a Minnesota Vikings jersey.

John McCormack is the online editor of The Weekly Standard.

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