FP1 is proud to have served as the general consultant and media firm to Senator Ron Johnson’s successful reelection campaign. Our strategic plan and advertising work helped Senator Johnson overcome an onslaught of spending from liberal outside groups and win in a swing state that was carried by President Biden.
At the beginning of the race, Senator Johnson was widely viewed as the most endangered Republican incumbent in the country and the top target of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s Super PAC. In a July poll conducted by Marquette University Law School, Senator Johnson’s image rating was dangerously underwater at 37 percent favorable to 46 percent unfavorable. After Lt. Governor Mandela Barnes secured the Democratic nomination, he surged to a seven-point lead over Johnson in Marquette University Law School’s August poll. Fueled by small-donor online contributions and backed by Schumer’s Senate Majority PAC, Barnes ended up outspending the Johnson campaign during the stretch run of the race.
To overcome the odds in this election, we aggressively litigated Mandela Barnes’ radical positions on crime and public safety issues. Barnes had expressed his support for defunding the police and had written legislation while serving in the Wisconsin Legislature to end cash bail for violent felons. Even more indefensible, Barnes had publicly advocated for reducing Wisconsin’s prison population by 50 percent, and his administration had released over 800 hardened criminals, including 44 child rapists. Barnes had also fanned the flames during the destructive Kenosha riots in the summer of 2020 when he attacked the police instead of condemning the violence on the streets. With violent crime spiking in Wisconsin, and homicides in Milwaukee reaching a record high, we had an opening to disqualify Barnes on law-and-order issues.
To capitalize on this opportunity, we ran a series of tough, negative ads that cast Mandela Barnes as dangerously liberal on crime. We used his own words to tie him to the defund-the-police movement. We exposed his hypocrisy on law-and-order issues by pointing out that he wanted to defund the police but had spent over $600,000 of taxpayer money to give police protection to himself. We also deployed powerful testimonials from two popular sheriffs in the crucial Waukesha-Ozaukee-Washington (WOW) counties and a mom who attacked Barnes for saying that reducing prison populations is now “sexy.” When a video surfaced of Barnes attacking American police officers on Vladimir Putin’s propaganda television outlet, we cut another hard-hitting ad reinforcing that Barnes was anti-cop and too radical to serve in the U.S. Senate. Our series of negative spots on television were supported by companion digital and radio ads throughout the campaign.
Our powerful negative ads succeeded in driving Mandela Barnes’ image underwater and fortified Senator Johnson’s support among soft Republicans and Independents. By late September, Senator Johnson had begun to lead in the polls as the dynamics of the race flipped. Despite a late barrage of attack ads from the better-funded Barnes campaign, Senator Johnson won reelection by 26,000 votes, a significant achievement considering that Democratic Governor Tony Evers defeated his Republican opponent at the top of the ticket by over 90,000 votes. Senator Johnson is a forceful advocate for fiscal responsibility, law and order and economic policies that strengthen small businesses and working families. FP1 is very proud to have been a part of Senator Johnson’s team and congratulates him on winning his third term in the U.S. Senate.
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