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Recent polls show Ron Johnson increasing lead over Mandela Barnes in U.S. Senate race

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U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson is increasing his lead over Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes in the U.S. Senate race, according to two new polls.

The Oshkosh Republican led Barnes, a Democrat, 51% to 46% among likely voters in a poll commissioned by AARP.

Republican gubernatorial nominee Tim Michels led Democratic Gov. Tony Evers 50% to 47%, the AARP Wisconsin poll shows.

In a new Fox News poll, Johnson led Barnes 48% to 44% among registered voters. That’s a swing from Fox’s August poll, which showed Barnes leading Johnson 50% to 46%.

Michels and Evers each received 47% support from registered voters in the September Fox News poll. Evers led Michels 49% to 46% in August.

The polling team AARP commissioned, Fabrizio Ward and Impact Research, surveyed 1,399 likely Wisconsin voters during the third week of September. That poll has a margin of error ranging from 3.4% to 4.9%, depending on the surveyed group. Fox News’ poll, conducted by Beacon Research and Shaw & Company Research, surveyed 1,012 Wisconsin voters between Sept. 22 and Sept. 26. That poll has a 3% margin of error.

Wisconsinites’ shift toward Johnson comes as Republicans outspend Democrats by $9 million in the U.S. Senate race, according to media tracking firm AdImpact. Much of that money is going toward television ads painting Barnes in a negative light. One says he is a “defund the police Democrat,” a billing Barnes denies.

Those ads appear to be pushing some voters away from Barnes. At the same time, the percentage of voters for and against Johnson appears to have remained steady.

In a Fox News poll conducted in mid-August, 30% of registered voters said they were “very” or “extremely” concerned Barnes’ views were too extreme. In September, 44% of registered voters said the same. In that time frame, the percentage of voters “not at all” concerned that Barnes’ views were too extreme went from 39% to 35%.

In September, 43% of registered voters in Wisconsin said they were “very” or “extremely” concerned Johnson’s views were too extreme, the Fox poll stated. That’s a slight reduction from August, where 44% of registered voters said the same. In August, 39% of registered voters said they were “not at all” concerned Johnson’s views were too extreme. In September, 42% said the same.

“Mandela Barnes’ dangerous defund-the-police agenda is unacceptable to hard-working families and we plan to continue to tell Wisconsinites who he really is,” Johnson spokesperson Alec Zimmerman said.

The polls come two weeks after a Marquette Law School Poll found Johnson leading Barnes 49% to 48%. That poll had Barnes leading Johnson by 7% in August.

“Despite Ron Johnson and his dark money donors spending millions on a smear campaign against Mandela Barnes, this race remains neck and neck,” Barnes spokesperson Maddy McDaniel said.

The AARP poll that showed Johnson ahead of Barnes also found that 84% of Wisconsinites over 50 said they would more likely vote for a candidate who would protect Social Security from cuts.

Barnes and other Democrats, including President Joe Biden, have consistently highlighted Johnson’s past comments calling to move Social Security and Medicare from mandatory to discretionary spending programs. Such a shift would require congressional budgetary authorization every year — something Democrats say could lead to eliminating those programs. Johnson denies wanting to dismantle them and has said he wants to preserve them.

Still, the margin of Johnson’s lead over Barnes among Wisconsinites over 50 — 52% to 45% — is greater than Johnson’s lead margin among all voters, according to the AARP poll.

Ninety percent of voters older than 50 are “extremely motivated” to vote in November, the AARP poll shows. Those voters’ top priority is inflation, followed by abortion, taxes and spending, and Social Security and Medicare.

In the Fox News poll, “the preservation of American democracy” is the top issue for voters, followed by inflation and higher prices, abortion, election integrity and voting rights, border security, crime and education.

That poll showed 49% of voters don’t approve of the job Evers is doing, while 48% approved. It is the first Fox News poll that showed Evers underwater since 2020.

Top 10 Wisconsin political stories of 2021 (based on what you, the readers, read)

2021 was another big year in Wisconsin politics. Sen. Ron Johnson said some things. Voters elected a new state superintendent. Gov. Tony Evers and Republicans clashed over mask mandates. Michael Gableman threatened to jail the mayors of Madison and Green Bay. Here are 10 political stories you, the readers, checked out in droves.

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Since the start of the outbreak, Gov. Tony Evers has issued multiple public health emergencies and a series of related orders. 

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Sen. Ron slammed the impeachment over the weekend as “vindictive and divisive,” and possibly a “diversionary operation” by Democrats to distract from security lapses at the U.S. Capitol.

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"I wouldn’t run if I don’t think I could win," said Johnson, who is undecided on a re-election bid. 

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The board had previously not required masks in schools after some in the public voiced opposition.

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With a new order announced, Republicans may be forced to start the process all over again to vote down the governor's emergency order and accompanying mask mandate, but the most likely outcome appears to be an eventual court decision.

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Fort McCoy officials acknowledge there were initial problems with food supply, but that and other issues are being addressed.

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The idea is in its infancy and all options, including declining to pursue anything, are on the table.

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Gableman has asked the court, which plans to take up the matter on Dec. 22, to compel the two mayors to meet with him.

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Deborah Kerr said she has also voted for Republicans and tells GOP audiences on the campaign trail for the officially nonpartisan race that she is a "pragmatic Democrat."

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Limbaugh died Wednesday at 70.

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