The rematch race between Sen. Ron Johnson and Russ Feingold, whom he ousted from office five years ago, has dramatically tightened, a Marquette University Law School poll released Thursday found.
In polling conducted last week, Feingold was at 47% with Johnson at 42%, showing the former senator’s lead has been sliced by more than half since the last Marquette poll.
In April, the Democrat had a stronger lead in the poll, at 54% to 38%, with 9% expressing no preference.
“While we’re happy to be repeatedly polling ahead of an incumbent senator, Russ expects this to be a close race,” said Tom Russell, campaign manager for Feingold. “This week, he’ll have visited all 72 Wisconsin counties in the first 101 days of the campaign to listen to Wisconsinites about their concerns.”
But the campaign spokesman for Johnson, a Republican from Oshkosh, pointed to Feingold’s shrinking lead.
“Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and Senator Feingold has been largely absent from Wisconsin and that helped him at first,” Brian Reisinger said. “But the more Wisconsin voters reacquaint themselves with Senator Feingold, the less they want to send him back to Washington.”
When Feingold announced his bid in May, the race quickly jumped to one of the top Senate races in the country in 2016, and it’s expected to be fiercely contested.
The following day, Feingold announced the first radio ad of his 2016 bid, which he named “Listening to Wisconsin.”
In the race, 42% of voters polled had a favorable impression of Feingold, 30% an unfavorable impression and 28% gave no impression. For Johnson, it was 30% favorable, 31% unfavorable and 38% with no impression, meaning that more people in Wisconsin are familiar with Feingold, who has been out of office for 5 1/2 years, than the incumbent.
Feingold’s favorable rating, however, has dipped since April while Johnson’s has remained roughly steady.
The latest poll surveyed 802 registered voters, who were interviewed by cell phone and landline, and had a margin of error or plus or minus 4.3 percentage points.