Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin is raking leaves, asking if voters are “tired of the division and the anger.” Tim Michels, the GOP nominee for governor, is driving a red pickup truck, promising a “new direction for Wisconsin.”
As Election Day approaches, all four candidates in Wisconsin’s races for Senate and governor have launched new television advertisements to make their closing arguments for voters.
The contrast in their approaches is stark: The Democrats, Gov. Tony Evers and Senate nominee Mandela Barnes, are on the attack. Johnson and Michels don’t even mention their opponents’ names.
It’s a similar approach to what’s playing out across the midterm map, in states such as Pennsylvania, where Republican Senate hopeful Mehmet Oz’s campaign this week began airing spot in which Oz laments the “compassion” missing in politics and promises to “bring balance to Washington.” His Democratic opponent, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, is up with a new ad saying Oz “lies for your vote.”
The GOP appeals, which follow months of hard-hitting attacks on their Democratic opponents on crime and inflation, appear to be focused on winning over moderate voters, while Democrats are drawing sharp contrasts aimed at energizing their base and spoiling those Republican efforts.
Republicans are entering the midterms’ closing days riding a wave of optimism as the party seeks to take control of the House and Senate, as well as win a handful of key governor’s races in swing states such as Arizona, Nevada and Wisconsin.
Democrats, meanwhile, are attempting to shift the blame for inflation and pointing fingers at Republicans over the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade, the party’s response to the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol and more.
A new CNN poll conducted by SSRS shows an enthusiastic Republican base amid concerns about the economy, while a serious drop-off in Democratic enthusiasm over the midterms compared to 2018, when the party won control of the House, is jeopardizing Democrats’ narrow majorities in Washington.
The new ads in Wisconsin’s races for Senate and governor were a vivid display of the different tasks each side is seeking to accomplish with early voting well underway.
Evers launched a new ad Wednesday morning touting his record, expressing his commitment to bipartisanship in closely divided Wisconsin, and implying that Michels, who won the GOP primary after an endorsement from Donald Trump, would be the former president’s “puppet.”
“I’ve worked with both parties to find middle ground to improve and invest in our public schools, cut income taxes and put our state on solid financial footing,” Evers says. “Here’s what I won’t do. I won’t cut public school funding. I won’t be Donald Trump’s puppet, and I will never allow radical politicians to make decisions about abortion. That should be left to women and their doctors.”
On the GOP side, Michels launched a new ad Tuesday pitching a “new direction for Wisconsin,” highlighting key issues such as crime, education, and the economy as he drives a red pickup truck.
“The governor’s basic responsibility is to keep us safe, strong and thriving. We all know that’s not happening,” Michels says in the ad.
“This election is about what the governor is going to do. I’m going to put more money in the pockets of the hardworking families in Wisconsin. We’re going to have safer communities, and we’re going to have better schools,” he says. “If you’re ready for a new direction, hop in.”
The Wisconsin race has been the second-most expensive gubernatorial contest since Labor Day, drawing over $64 million in ad spending. Democrats have outspent Republicans on advertising over that stretch, about $41 million to $23 million. Evers has spent about $14 million, while Michels has spent about $7 million.
A similar contrast in the candidates’ closing messages unfolded in the Senate race.
Johnson, the Republican seeking his third term, begins his ad by asking: “Aren’t you tired of the division and the anger? I know I sure am.”
Democrats have accused Johnson of being one of the most divisive figures in Washington, pointing to his past comments comparing the management of Social Security to a “Ponzi scheme” and his comments appearing to downplay the violence during the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol.
“Our country faces enormous challenges. I promise I’ll do everything I can to help make things better, and I’ll always tell you the truth,” Johnson says in the ad. “What continues to give me hope are the kind and decent people I meet all over Wisconsin – people who love America and are willing to work hard to unify and heal it.”
Barnes’ campaign on Wednesday began airing an ad featuring a litany of attacks on the GOP incumbent’s record on taxes.
“Ron Johnson looks out for himself, not us,” a narrator says in the spot.
In Pennsylvania’s Senate race – the nation’s most expensive since Labor Day, with more than $150 million in ad spending, including $86 million from Democrats and $66 million from Republicans – Fetterman and Oz also take different approaches on air less than a week before Election Day.
Fetterman’s new spot seeks to set up a contrast with Oz, touting the Democrat’s Pennsylvania roots while casting Oz as an out-of-touch carpetbagger.
“Pennsylvania, the choice is yours,” Fetterman says in the ad. “I only got into politics to make my town a safer place. Oz only moved here to run for office, to use us.”
Oz, meanwhile, launched a new ad offering voters a moderated, values-based pitch.
“I’ve seen your kindness, your grace, your willingness to share. My family, and I will carry these memories forever,” the celebrity surgeon says in his new ad. “What’s missing from politics these days is compassion.”
Oz then vows to cut taxes and, notably, “strengthen Social Security” – an issue that has dogged several GOP Senate nominees in key states, such as Blake Masters in Arizona and JD Vance in Ohio, with their past comments on entitlement reform getting highlighted in attack ads.
“Politicians point fingers. Doctors solve problems. Together, we’ll stand up to extremism on both sides and bring balance to Washington,” he says.