Analysis by Chris Cillizza, CNN Editor-at-large
Updated: Tue, 22 Jun 2021 03:01:33 GMT
Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson has been an outlier in his swing state for much of the last several years.
While the state has been closely contested -- Joe Biden narrowly beat Donald Trump in the Badger State in 2020 -- Johnson has carved out space as one of Trump's most ardent backers and one of the Republicans most willing to embrace wild conspiracy theories about the 2020 election and the January 6 riot that followed.
Actions have consequences. Embracing that sort of stuff isn't forgotten -- or, as Johnson's stop at a Juneteenth rally this weekend showed, forgiven.
Here's how the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported on the day:
"On Saturday, during an otherwise joyful celebration of Juneteenth Day in Milwaukee, U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson made an appearance at a Republican Party booth.
"Johnson told reporters that his experience interacting with attendees had been generally positive, except for 'one nasty comment.'
However, as more people recognized him, he was drowned out by a chorus of boos. Members of a growing crowd swore at him and said, 'We don't want you here.'"
The best part? Johnson told reporters that the boos were "not how you heal the nation," and added: "You come down here and try to interact with people and be nice to people. But this isn't very nice, is it?"
Here are a few reminders of what Johnson has said over the last few months:
* He floated the idea that Speaker Nancy Pelosi (California) pushed the impeachment of Trump to, uh, hide the role she played on January 6.
* In a congressional hearing, Johnson pushed the notion that the January 6 insurrection was, broadly speaking, a peaceful protest, with a few bad apples.
And here's Johnson in March in an interview with a conservative talk radio host:
"Even though those thousands of people that were marching to the Capitol were trying to pressure people like me to vote the way they wanted me to vote, I knew those were people that love this country, that truly respect law enforcement, would never do anything to break the law, and so I wasn't concerned ...
" ... Now, had the tables been turned -- Joe, this could get me in trouble -- had the tables been turned, and President Trump won the election and those were tens of thousands of Black Lives Matter and Antifa protesters, I might have been a little concerned."
So, Johnson might have been worried if the crowd on January 6 had been predominantly Black rather than predominantly white? Um, OK.
The fact that Johnson was surprised -- and, quite clearly, annoyed -- by the reaction he received at the Juneteenth celebration tells you everything you need to know about how out-of-touch he is with the electorate in Wisconsin.
And raises the possibility -- as I did in a piece earlier this month -- that Senate Republicans may well have a better chance of winning the seat next November if Johnson decides against seeking a third term. (Johnson has hemmed and hawed about whether to run again for months; "I don't feel any pressure to make it, really, anytime soon," he said in early June.)
Of course, Johnson's history of controversial comments has won him one prominent admirer: Trump. "He has no idea how popular he is," the former President said earlier this year. "Run, Ron, Run!"
The problem for Johnson is that Trump doesn't vote in Wisconsin. And if the reception the incumbent got over the weekend -- from actual Wisconsin voters -- is any indication -- he could be in for a very rough race if he decides to run it.