In case you didn’t know, Friday night was debate night in Wisconsin:
Mandela Barnes‘ first debate against Ron Johnson exposed glaring hypocrisies from both Wisconsin’s incumbent Republican senator and the Republican Party at large, particularly on the topic of crime.
The two squared off Friday night in Milwaukee as the Democratic nominee and Wisconsin’s sitting lieutenant governor also held Johnson to account on contentious issues like abortion, Social Security and Medicare.
But when the debate turned to issues involving crime — a topic that Republicans have increasingly used for fearmongering purposes — Barnes employed a strategic approach that expertly upended Johnson’s GOP-led talking points about Democrats purportedly being soft on crime. He simply pointed to the Capitol riots and how Republicans readily downplayed and dismissed undeniably illegal and violent activity by pro-Trump vigilantes in the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.
Johnson, known in part for racist comments that show contempt for Black people, has notably tried to justify the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol that left at least five people dead.
During the debate, Johnson tried to label Barnes, and Democrats by proxy, as supporting policies that have contributed to “a huge problem with skyrocketing crime.” Johnson said that as a result, “we’re not keeping criminals in jail.”
But how Johnson defines the word “criminals” is up for debate itself as Barnes capitalized on the senator’s continued indifference to the very illegal Capitol riots and the violence against responding members of law enforcement.
But this was the best response from Barnes:
Here are some more awesome highlights from Barnes in the first debate:
Barnes might be onto something here with his response because let’s look at the latest polling:
What role do Ron Johnson's views on 2020 play? For Republicans, not a major one. But they may be alienating to some independents.
Republicans overwhelmingly support Johnson, whether they believe he accepted or wanted to overturn the 2020 election results — and many say they're not sure which it was. That said, there's a bit more crossover to Barnes among the third of Republicans who believe Johnson wanted the election overturned.
But Johnson's views on 2020 may be hurting him with voters outside his own party.
Among independents who say he wanted the election overturned, eight in 10 support Barnes. Other independents — who say Johnson accepted the results or aren't sure of his stance — overwhelmingly back Johnson.
Importantly, there may be a limit to the power of this — because many voters do not know what Johnson's stance was, either way. Those paying less attention to the midterms are less likely to know. And that, in turn, it may be because voters rank the 2020 election relatively low in importance compared to issues like the economy or abortion.
And Johnson gets nine in 10 votes from voters who thought COVID policies in Wisconsin were too strict. That's true whether or not they think Johnson has made mostly critical statements about vaccines.
Click here to register to vote in Wisconsin or check your voter registration.
Click here to learn more about early voting.
Health and Democracy are on the ballot next year and we need to keep Wisconsin Blue. Click below to donate and get involved with Mandela Barnes (D. WI) and his fellow Wisconsin Democrats campaigns:
Wisconsin Democratic Party
Minocqua Brewing Company SuperPAC
Tony Evers for Governor
Mandela Barnes for U.S. Senate
Brad Pfaff for Congress
Josh Kaul for Attorney General
Doug La Follete for Secretary of State
Aaron Richardson for Treasurer