U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson raised $2.1 million in the first quarter of 2016, about $1.2 million less than Dem rival Russ Feingold pulled in.
In it, Johnson's campaign expresses confidence about the state of the race, even though Feingold has consistently outraised the Oshkosh Republican since getting in the race. That includes the $3.35 million Feingold's campaign said the Dem raised during the first three months of 2016. Neither campaign has released their cash-on-hand number, and campaign finance reports are due to the FEC on Friday.
Johnson’s campaign has tried to turn Feingold’s fundraising advantage against him, knocking the Middleton Dem for backing off his pledge in previous campaigns to raise a majority of his money from Wisconsin residents. In today’s memo, Johnson campaign manager Betsy Ankney slammed what she viewed as the Dem’s “campaign finance hypocrisy.” She argued there “is no question, Feingold will have enough money to mount a formidable campaign -- but we are confident we will have the resources we need to win.”
Johnson also has consistently trailed Feingold in polling, though the latest Marquette University Law School Poll had him down 5 points among registered voters rather than the double-digit deficit he’s faced for much of the past year.
The memo focused on last week’s results in the presidential primaries, when about 100,000 more people voted in the GOP race than the Dem contest.
Ankney argued Johnson is an outsider like Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz, who won their respective primaries, and Donald Trump, who placed second in the GOP race, and the environment favors such a candidate. Along with the turnout in the GOP primary, she cited Rebecca Bradley's win in the Supreme Court race as more evidence of "just how powerful the conservative apparatus in our state is" and that Wisconsin is trending Republican. She also cited the turnout in arguing a superior ground game will matter this fall.
More than 2.1 voters turned out for the election last week, the best mark for an April election since 1972. By comparison, almost 3.1 million Wisconsinites voted in the 2012 election, which Barack Obama won by 213,000 votes. Republicans have not won a presidential race in Wisconsin since Ronald Reagan in 1984.
Feingold campaign manager Tom Russell countered today by pointing out the Middleton Dem has outraised Johnson by more than $1 million in each quarter since getting in. He has now pulled in about $10.8 million for his campaign, compared to the $7.1 million Johnson has raised over roughly the same period.
Russell said Feingold's fundraising haul includes more than 30,000 Wisconsin contributions from all 72 counties and noted other trends such as Feingold relying on a base of smaller donors on which the campaign can "operate and grow," while Johnson "is overwhelmingly dependent upon a small group of very wealthy donors."
Russell also argued Feingold has "both the message and the resources to drive a strong campaign," while Johnson has a "crippling reliance on outside groups and Super PACs to handle both his funding and his message." The conservative Americans for Prosperity last week announced a $1.1 million TV buy to boost Johnson, while the super PAC Let America Work this week went up with an ad going after Feingold on national security.
"Third, Senator Johnson has embraced the culture of DC so aggressively that he’ll have a hard time appealing to Wisconsin voters, while Russ has been constantly traveling the state listening to voters and showing a real commitment to their concerns," Russell said.
-- By JR Ross
Editor's note: This post has been updated with comments from the Feingold campaign and additional details from the Johnson campaign memo.