Ron Johnson’s approval ratings are underwater in a swing state that President Joe Biden won.
Instead of moving to the center, though, as he faces reelection this fall, the Wisconsin senator has become the face of conspiracy theories about Covid-19 and the 2020 election in the Senate. He has said that gargling mouthwash can kill the coronavirus, Jan. 6 was a mostly “peaceful protest,” and unvaccinated people around the world are being sent “basically into internment camps.”
For a vulnerable senator staring down a tough campaign, the string of head-turning remarks seem to defy political logic. But it turns out that Johnson’s shoot-from-the-lip style is a feature, not a bug, of his campaign for a third term. GOP strategists and officials say his unfiltered remarks are generating enthusiasm among a party base conditioned by Donald Trump, and appealing to independents who loathe Washington.