Saturday, August 24th, 2019

Johnson most vulnerable, according to Crystal Ball

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Kyle Kondik, the managing editor of Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball Report, explains why they are calling Senator Ron Johnson the most vulnerable incumbent senator in 2016:

Early attention has focused on the three most reliably Democratic states of the seven mentioned above: Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. It is right to assume that there’s not much of a credible path to a Democratic Senate restoration if the party doesn’t sweep these states, and reasonable minds differ as to which state provides the best opportunity for Democrats. We started all three states as Toss-ups in our initial ratings, but we now see the races as distinctly different.

Which brings us back to Feingold, and the first domino Democrats must knock over to win the Senate.

There seems to be a wide consensus that, of the vulnerable Republican senators in 2016, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin is the weakest. While Feingold has undeniable vulnerabilities, and he is hardly a lock to win back the Senate seat he lost to Johnson in 2010, we think he starts as the favorite. So we’re moving Wisconsin to Leans Democratic and making Johnson the explicit underdog — an unusual position for an incumbent, especially this early in the cycle. But even members of Johnson’s party seriously question whether he has made the kind of ideological concessions in the Senate that could help him win under conditions that probably won’t be as ideal as they were for him in 2010. The respected Marquette Law School Poll shows Feingold leading Johnson by a staggering 16 points as the race begins. That strikes us as high, but we do believe Feingold begins ahead.

The road to a Democratic majority in the senate goes through Wisconsin. If the Democrats can’t win here, it’s game over. According to Crystal Ball, to get to 51 senators the Democrats must hold all of their current seats, including Colorado and Nevada; take Wisconsin, Illinois and Florida; and win two out of three in Pennsylvania, Ohio and New Hampshire.

Regardless of former Senator Russ Feingold’s professed feelings about third party expenditures the Democrats are going to be dumping a lot of money here. With all of the other possible firewalls for the GOP, it will be interesting to see how much national money comes in on the right.

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