Feingold’s lead over Johnson tightens, but his fundraising remains ahead

Scott Bauer, AP writer

Democrat Russ Feingold continues to outraise Republican incumbent Sen. Ron Johnson in Wisconsin’s hotly contested Senate race, and he has more cash on hand through the first six months of the year.

Both campaigns released fundraising figures Tuesday in advance of the Friday filing deadline for the second quarter of the year. While the candidates are raising and spending on the race, independent outside groups on both sides have also spent millions on television advertising.

Through the first six months of the year, Feingold raised about $7.4 million compared with $4.9 million for Johnson. Feingold also had more money on hand at the end of June —$7.2 million compared with $6.3 million for Johnson.

Johnson’s campaign said Tuesday that he raised $2.8 million in the second quarter of the year, up from $2.1 million in the first three months. Feingold raised nearly $3.3 million in the first quarter and $4.1 million over the three months ending in June.

While still trailing Feingold, the amount Johnson raised for the most recent quarter was third highest among Republican Senate candidates nationwide. Johnson was behind only Pennsylvania’s Pat Toomey, who brought in $3.1 million, and Ohio’s Rob Portman, who raised $2.9 million.

And Johnson’s fundraising increased 33 percent from the first to second quarter, while Feingold’s went up 24 percent.

“The growing support we’re seeing for Ron proves that people know what’s at stake in this election,” said Johnson’s campaign spokesman Brian Reisinger in an emailed statement. “In the fight to keep control of the U.S. Senate, the choice in Wisconsin is as clear as it can get — between an Oshkosh manufacturer who is working to solve our problems and keep us safe, and a career politician who got us on the wrong track in the first place.”

Democrats need to net four or five seats to win back Senate control — four if they hang onto the White House and can send the vice president to break ties in the Senate; five if they don’t.

Democrats have viewed Johnson as vulnerable, given that he’s up for re-election in a presidential year, when Democratic turnout is traditionally higher in Wisconsin. No Republican senator in Wisconsin has been elected in a presidential year since 1980.

A Marquette University Law School poll released last month showed Feingold ahead of Johnson by 9 points among likely voters and 4 points among registered voters.

But a poll released today showed the race tightening. The latest Marquette Law School Poll found Feingold led Johnson among registered voters 48 percent to 41 percent in a head-to-head matchup.

Among likely voters, Feingold’s lead was even smaller, 49–44 percent.

Conservative outside groups have been investing heavily in helping Johnson, outspending those backing Feingold about $5 million to $1 million in the first six months of the year. Most of the third-party spending benefiting Feingold so far, about $2 million from six liberal groups, came in 2015.