By SCOTT BAUER
and TODD RICHMOND
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Conservative spending to help incumbent Sen. Ron Johnson win re-election continued to pour into Wisconsin on Tuesday, as Democratic former Sen. Russ Feingold looked for a boost from Hillary Clinton’s running mate, who was returning to campaign in the state for the first time in months.
The two sides have spent roughly $6 million, combined, on television ads since Monday, as Republicans sense a tightening in a race that Democrats have long seen as securely theirs and that could be key to their party’s hopes of gaining control of the Senate.
Feingold was to campaign Tuesday with Clinton’s running mate, Sen. Tim Kaine, in Appleton and to hold an early voting rally in Madison with Sen. Tammy Baldwin, Wisconsin’s other U.S. senator. Johnson has not said if he would appear at Donald Trump’s evening rally in Eau Claire.
The latest television ads Tuesday from Americans for Prosperity and the Reform Wisconsin Fund, along with two new spots from Johnson’s campaign, come just a week before Election Day. Those come after Democratic and Republican super PACs on Monday each launched $2 million ad campaigns and Clinton aired her first spots in the state to help Feingold.
Feingold’s campaign manager, Tom Russell, said in a memo to supporters Tuesday that Johnson’s “corporate backers are panicking and hoping another few million dollars will fix the problem.” Russell said Johnson has “failed to make a bipartisan, commonsense case for another six years in Washington.”
Russell said strong early voter turnout in Democratic counties, consistent polling showing Feingold ahead, and strong grassroots fundraising support point to a victory over Johnson.
Americans for Prosperity said it is spending nearly $1 million on the new ad attacking Feingold for supporting President Barack Obama’s health care law. Republican Senate candidates across the country have seen an opening against Democrats who support the Affordable Health Care Act in light of news that premiums are going up an average of 25 percent in the 39 states served by the federally run online market. Rates in Wisconsin are expected to go up an average of 16 percent.
Feingold voted for the law when he was in the Senate and the new ad includes a clip of him talking about how proud he was to support it.
The other ad, coming from a different conservative super PAC, the Reform Wisconsin Fund, attacks Feingold for supporting the Iranian nuclear deal, calling him a “radical.” Johnson opposes the deal that curtailed Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for the end of various oil, trade and financial sanctions.
The Reform Wisconsin Fund and a partner PAC called the Reform America Fund have received $5.4 million from billionaire Diana Hendricks, co-founder of Beloit’s ABC Supply. Chris Martin, a spokesman for the group, said the latest ad buy was $628,000.
Johnson’s campaign also launched two new ads on Tuesday. One is tailored to the northern Wisconsin congressional district of Republican Rep. Sean Duffy and the other features a mother whose son died of a heroin overdose criticizing Feingold.
The Duffy ad shows the former lumberjack-turned-congressman chopping down a tree with a narrator saying both he and Johnson are “hardworking outsiders who tell it like it is.” Johnson, wearing one of Duffy’s signature plaid red shirts, stands next to Duffy in what appears to be a bar.