Democrat Russ Feingold is battling to maintain his lead in a suddenly hot Wisconsin Senate race, as Republican groups drop massive last-minute television ad campaigns across the state.
Feingold, who is Jewish, is still favored to win the Senate seat off incumbent Ron Johnson, the Republican who toppled him in 2010.
But while the forecasting website FiveThirtyEight still says Feingold has an 89% chance of beating Johnson on November 8, some October polls showed the race as tight as a single percentage point.
Republican officials are looking to capitalize on the opening. That’s because Democrats’ opportunities to retake the Senate largely rely on a Feingold victory as an easy pickup. Without Feingold, Democrats would need to win in a tougher state, like New Hampshire or Missouri.
Politico reported November 3 that the National Republican Senatorial Committee committed just under $1 million to last-minute anti-Feingold ads. The Senate Leadership Fund, another Republican group, is spending $2 million on pro-Johnson ads, while pro-Johnson Super PACs , including the Let America Work PAC and the Reform America Fund are spending millions more, according to the Associated Press.
Feingold and his allies are running their own final television barrage, with a $2 million in ads purchased Friday by the Democrats’ Senate Majority PAC.
Both Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden and traveling to Wisconsin to campaign with Feingold in the race’s final days, the AP reported. Governor Scott Walker and House Speaker Paul Ryan will campaign with Johnson.
Feingold, a progressive, has the support of the political action fund connected to the left-wing pro-Israel group J Street, which has run an ad against Johnson.
In the Senate, where he served beginning in 1993, Feingold opposed the Iraq War and the Patriot Act. Since losing to Johnson in 2010, Feingold worked as a law professor, served as U.S. Special Envoy, and was remarried.
Josh Nathan-Kazis is a staff writer for the Forward. He covers charities and politics, and writes investigations and longform.