The ability to steer clear of the media has become a necessary skill for a vulnerable Senate Republican looking to survive in the Year of Donald Trump.
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) has spent most of this election ducking questions about the GOP nominee, whom he supports. (He didn’t even mention Trump’s name in a recent debate.)
But instead of avoiding attention, this week the vulnerable one-term senator made a strategic decision to draw it to his campaign. Adding one more indignity to the year’s list of tough breaks, Johnson launched an ad in which he gets peed on. (Not a metaphor.)
In the end, of course, Johnson prevails in his quest to change his grandson’s diaper. He even slam dunks the diaper in the trash from the opposite end of the kitchen, a satisfied smile on his face. The message is supposed to be: Johnson can clean up a mess, whether it’s baby pee or “the mess in Washington.”
But the message we can’t help but take away from this spot is a slightly different one: Johnson would really like Wisconsin voters to start noticing him. Like, now. Please.
It’s probably not a coincidence this ad comes after a state poll shows his Democratic challenger, former senator Russ Feingold, up by 12 points. (Other polls have shown the race closer. A RealClearPolitics average of the latest polls has Feingold up by almost five points.)
Since the start of this campaign, Wisconsin has been near the top of our most-likely-to-flip parties list. Johnson’s race is currently at second most likely to flip, behind only Sen. Mark Kirk (R) in Illinois. That’s largely because Johnson is running for reelection in a state that has voted for the Democratic presidential candidate every election since 1988.
Which means Johnson has to run a spectacular race to keep his seat. He’s currently outperforming Trump by an average of four to five points, but the way this presidential race is going for Republicans, that may not be enough. Hillary Clinton is up by some seven points in Wisconsin this year, according to the trusty RealClearPolitics average of recent polls.
Running a spectacular race seems to mean different things to Johnson’s team on different days. One day, it’s successfully ducking the media and questions about his party’s nominee. The next, it’s getting peed on by a baby. Thanks, 2016.