Republican Ron Johnson is a first-term U.S. senator from Wisconsin. The voters back home wouldn’t know it watching his re-election campaign’s first TV ad .
Even for a time when incumbent lawmakers try to distance themselves from their job titles, Johnson’s new ad takes that approach to an extreme. It doesn’t once mention his work as a lawmaker or even identify him as a senator.
Instead, Johnson appears on camera in a manufacturing plant, promoting the virtues of a plastics company he helped found.
“Career politicians manufacture hogwash,” he says while a forklift operates in the background. “I manufacture plastic. And I respect you enough to tell you the truth.”
The 30-second spot, part of a $1.3 million ad buy from the campaign, aligns perfectly with Johnson’s re-election strategy as he runs against Democratic former Sen. Russ Feingold in a rematch of their 2010 battle. Johnson is trying to run as an outsider despite his incumbency, arguing that his business background makes him less of a career politician than his opponent , who served three terms in the Senate.
It was a message that worked for the Oshkosh, Wisconsin, native in 2010, when he made a surprise late entry into the race against Feingold. In a year dominated by conservative political outsiders, the then-newcomer to politics touted his private-sector experience as a necessary antidote to Feingold’s legislative background.
His new ad appears as if it were lifted from his first campaign.
“Some companies export jobs,” Johnson says. “We export our products. Been doing it for decades, helping to create more Wisconsin jobs.
“And I’ve stayed put, right here in Oshkosh, for 37 years,” he added.
Johnson is considered one of this year’s most vulnerable GOP Senate incumbents. On Monday, The Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report/Roll changed its rating of the race to Tilts Democratic.
The Feingold campaign responded that Johnson has “spent the last six years in Washington rigging the system for giant corporations and multi-millionaires like himself.”
“Sen. Johnson is not manufacturing anything now, he’s just a typical politician who votes time and time again to send Wisconsin’s jobs overseas,” said Feingold spokesman Michael Tyler.