We’ve known that Wisconsin would be a key Senate battleground this year. But until just recently we didn’t know who the Democratic nominee was. Now we know it’s Democrat Mandela Barnes, who had essentially cleared the field by the time of the primary vote. A new Marquette Law poll just came out — this is Charles Franklin’s poll, which is the premium in-state poll. It shows Barnes up by seven points over Johnson 51%-44%. In June the same poll found a 46%-44% race. That difference is likely a mix of shifting electoral landscape and Barnes consolidating potential supporters after the primary ended.
I do not count Johnson out. He’s won two straight elections he was not expected to win, both against former Sen. Russ Feingold. He’s a canny and able politician. But unless this poll is a significant outlier Wisconsin looks like the strong pick up opportunity Democrats were hoping for. For an incumbent to be running behind a challenger who has crossed the 50% threshold is a perilous place to be.