Johnson surges to victory in final days
Russ Feingold waited six years in the wings, hoping to unseat the man who handed him a decisive loss. On Tuesday, Wisconsin voters declined to return Feingold to the U.S. Senate.
Oshkosh businessman Ron Johnson handily won his re-election bid by carrying 52 percent of the vote with three-quarters of precincts reporting at press time.
“It’s a big night for Wisconsin and it’s a big night for America,” news sources reported Johnson as saying at his campaign celebration in Oshkosh.
Feingold called after 10 p.m. to concede.
The 63-year-old former senator had sought the same seat he had held for nearly two decades. He won the Democratic primary in August and had what appeared to be a 10 percentage point lead three weeks before the election.
Yet, the Feingold-Johnson outcome for 2016 suddenly became unclear last weekend. By Election Day, the race had narrowed to a dead heat.
The 2010 and 2016 campaigns had similarities but also big differences, although the results were the same.
In 2010, anger over the state’s weak economy sent many Wisconsin voters polls where they elected Republican Scott Walker their governor.
Johnson — who was the state's first Republican senator since Feingold defeated Bob Kasten in 1992 — saw an opportunity as Walker gained momentum. Johnson jumped into the race that May and stunned Feingold six months later, riding the Wisconsin wave with Walker.
In 2016, the anger bubbled higher at the national level and over a score of issues — from immigration to health care reform. Democrats, who had lost control of the U.S. Senate in the 2014 election, hoped to return to power and that Feingold would be part of that victory.
Feingold trailed all night.
He never received more than 55 percent of the vote in any of his three previous elections.