Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson: My low approval ratings aren't my fault

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Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) thinks he has done 'a really good job,' even with an approval rating of 36%.

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) insisted Sunday that his low approval ratings are not at all his fault and that he is "not a polarizing figure."

Johnson made the comments during an interview with journalist Adrienne Pedersen on Milwaukee television station WISN, just two weeks after announcing he would break his promise to limit himself to two terms and seek reelection in November.

Asked how "someone who's become a very polarizing figure in politics" with a 35% approval rating will win over enough moderate voters to prevail in a general election, Johnson answered, "First of all, I'm not a polarizing figure. It's just that people in the legacy media call me one and all of a sudden, you become one. I'm not a polarizing figure at all. I'm just trying to convey the truth. I've done a really good job as Wisconsin's United States senator."

Johnson then blamed the media for his unpopularity. "It's not surprising that, having withstood a year's worth of attacks from the legacy media, which again is pretty much the communication apparatus for the Democrat Party, that, you know, maybe my poll numbers have slipped," he said.

Marquette University Law School polls conducted in August and November showed Johnson with approval ratings of 35% and 36% respectively.

But even Johnson has previously questioned his own record.

Last July, he told right-wing podcaster Lisa Boothe, "I feel really bad that I've been here now probably 11 years and we've doubled the debt. Obamacare's still in place, and we've doubled the debt. I don't feel like my time here has been particularly successful."

In the same interview, he suggested he might not run again: "I want to make sure that this U.S. Senate seat is retained in Republican hands. You see what the media's doing to me. I may not be the best candidate. I wouldn't run if I don't think I could win, if I don't think I was the best person to be able to win."

A month later, he told Wendy Bell, another right-wing commentator, "I'd rather be somewhere else. I'd rather do something else. I don't want to — it's not that I want to be a U.S. senator. I'm not seeking the title. It's because I so love this country, as do Trump supporters."

Nevertheless, Johnson announced on Jan. 9 that he would run again, saying, "I'd like to retire, but I think the country is in too much peril." He charged that the press, tech companies, and the Democratic majority in Washington, D.C., were leading Americans down a path that "always leads to tyranny."

Additionally, he has continued to push false claims about the coronavirus pandemic.

Johnson has sought to discourage people from getting immunized against COVID-19, blasting "indiscriminate vaccination," falsely claiming vaccines do not work, and dishonestly stating that "over 19,000 deaths" are attributable to COVID-19 vaccines. He even made the evidence-free suggestion that people gargle with mouthwash to curb the virus's spread.

On Monday, he hosted a roundtable of anti-vaccine mandate "doctors and medical experts" to give Americans a "second opinion" contradicting medical consensus.

Based on his "anti-science crusade" about COVID-19, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's editorial board in June called him "the most irresponsible representative of Wisconsin citizens since the infamous Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy in the 1950s."

Johnson claimed in October that the richest 1% of Americans already pay "pretty close to a fair share" in taxes — even after he voted to cut tax rates for the top earners and corporations in 2017.

And during an appearance on Fox News in April 2021, he said that Democrats may want "complete open borders" so they can "remake the demographics of America, to ensure their — that they stay in power forever," echoing the racist "great replacement" conspiracy theory that the left encourages immigration because it wants to replace white Americans with immigrants that will oust them from their presumed rightful place in power.

The website Politics1 lists 12 Democratic candidates who have so far announced that they will seek to challenge Johnson, along with a number of Republicans and independents.

President Joe Biden won Wisconsin narrowly in 2020. The Cook Political Report rates the upcoming Senate race a toss-up.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.