MADISON, Wis. — Today, on the heels of Roe v. Wade being overturned, a new report detailed Ron Johnson’s long history of demeaning women and working against their best interests throughout his career.
- Democrats are amplifying these issues, but the strategy to defeat the incumbent Wisconsin senator [Ron Johnson] also has another clear target: his record on women. The Supreme Court decision overruling the landmark Roe v. Wade Friday—and Wisconsin’s 173-year-old state law banning abortions now in effect—has the potential to make this strategy more politically potent than ever, making Johnson a clear test case in Democrats’ promise to make women’s rights a winning issue at the ballot box.
- Johnson is an easy target in that respect. The two-term senator said he didn’t view the repeal of Roe v. Wade “as a huge threat to women’s health” and that things would be “fine.” He said anyone who does not like Wisconsin’s abortion laws “can move,” has advocated for a federal abortion ban after 20 weeks—despite arguing that the matter was a state’s issue—and supported a Mississippi law to ban abortions after 15 weeks.
- It’s a strategy seemingly based on lessons learned from the last three election cycles. In 2018 Democrats energized their base to deliver Tony Evers the governorship, despite Trump winning the state two years prior; in 2020, Biden managed to flip the state from red to blue by siphoning off key votes in Milwaukee suburbs—Waukesha, Ozaukee, and Washington counties notable among them—and chipping away at historically landslide margins in traditional Republican strongholds like the Mequon, Elm Grove, and Brookfield suburbs.
- Republicans concede this could work; one GOP strategist who has run numerous campaigns in Wisconsin explained that Johnson can’t win by plucking from the MAGA playbook alone.
- In addition to his position on Roe, Johnson has suggested that single mothers choose to have more children in order to receive greater welfare assistance. He also suggested that assisting single mothers with government aid turned them into “dependents” and that mothers on welfare assistance should work in childcare centers as an alternative solution.
- “He is really a true believer when it comes to the oppression of women and disrespecting women. He’s been doing it for a long time here in his political career,” Melissa Baldauff, a Democratic strategist based in Wisconsin, told me. (Johnson’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
- Robyn Vining, a Democratic member of the Wisconsin State Assembly, relied on women voters in 2018, when she flipped a longtime red seat previously held by the likes of former Republican governor Scott Walker in 2018 and held on to it in 2020. “We had women who had never knocked doors before, out knocking doors…. We had women writing hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of postcards,” Vining said. “It really matters. Women are fed up. They’re sick and tired of being targeted, of being unrepresented.”