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Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes greets guests at a campaign event

Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes greets guests during a campaign event on August 7, 2022 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Progressive Mandela Barnes Leads Ron Johnson by 7 Points in New Poll

"People are done being represented by an out-of-touch, self-serving multimillionaire like Ron Johnson," said Wisconsin's Democratic Senate nominee.

Kenny Stancil

Wisconsin's progressive Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes—now the official Democratic nominee for the key battleground state's U.S. Senate race following last week's primary victory—is currently leading his far-right opponent, incumbent Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, by 7 points.

Barnes is supported by 51% of registered voters while Johnson, an ultra-wealthy Trump loyalist running for a third term, has the backing of 44%, according to a new Marquette Law Poll released Wednesday.

Barnes' lead has grown significantly over the past two months. In mid-June, a Marquette Law Poll gave Wisconsin's then-presumptive Democratic Senate nominee a 2-point advantage over Johnson (46% to 44%).

The lieutenant governor is also doing increasingly well with Independents, expanding his vote share among that demographic from 41% in June to 52% as of this week. Over the same time period, Johnson's support among Independents has fallen from 41% to 38%.

"People are done being represented by an out-of-touch, self-serving multimillionaire like Ron Johnson," Barnes tweeted Wednesday.

Marquette's latest poll, conducted from August 10-15, is the first to come in the wake of the state's August 9 primaries. Results are based on interviews with 811 registered voters, with a margin of error of +/-4.2 percentage points.

"As Wisconsinites begin to engage with the upcoming midterms, it's clear that voters are swinging Mandela's way," the Barnes campaign said in a press release. "The son of a third-shift auto worker and public school teacher, Mandela has kept his lead over Johnson with Independent voters, proving his message of rebuilding the middle-class resonates with working people across party lines."

Half of voters say that Barnes—a supporter of Medicare for All who has picked up endorsements from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), trade union leaders, family farmers, and local elected officials across Wisconsin—cares about people like themselves, while just 27% say that he doesn't.

By contrast, 41% of voters say that Johnson—one of the GOP's would-be executioners of Social Security and Medicare—cares about people like themselves, and 49% of people say that he doesn't.

Barnes is viewed favorably by 37% and unfavorably by 22% of voters, while Johnson is viewed favorably by 38% and unfavorably by 47% of voters—giving the two candidates net-favorability ratings of plus-15 and minus-9, respectively.

The new poll was conducted before Barnes made waves on Tuesday with his assertion that Johnson is "bought and paid for by Big Pharma"—a charge that came in response to the far-right incumbent's recent criticism of the modest drug pricing reforms included in the Inflation Reduction Act.

According to the Barnes campaign, "Ron Johnson has a serious enthusiasm problem within his own party."

"Johnson's challenger, who spent virtually no money and had almost zero name recognition, was able to peel off nearly 110,000 votes in the Republican primary against an incumbent who has been in office for over a decade," Barnes' team pointed out.

"Johnson continues to show how out of touch he is by calling for the slashing of Social Security, coming out on the side of big pharmaceutical companies, and justifying sending good-paying union jobs out of the state," the campaign added.

Barnes and his Pennsylvania counterpart John Fetterman are widely viewed as the Democrats with the best chances to flip seats in the Senate during November's pivotal midterms—a feat that could help their party maintain, and possibly expand, its slim majority.

In a recent interview with The Guardian, Sanders slammed right-wing Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) for spending the past year and a half weakening the climate, tax, and healthcare bill just signed into law by President Joe Biden.

"We cannot leave it to conservative Democrats to define the direction in which Congress and the Democratic Party is going," said Sanders. "Give us two or three more seats so we don't have to make compromises with corporate Democrats."

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