The Wisconsin Senate race has quickly turned into one of the most heated in the nation, and House Speaker Paul Ryan is putting strong emphasis on helping Sen. Ron Johnson fend off his Democratic opponent, former Sen. Russ Feingold.
The campaigns have been in constant communication on Johnson’s re-election bid throughout the year, working together on everything from planning events to digital strategy. Ryan is expected increase his efforts in the final days leading up to Nov. 8.
“What’s been stepped up, is we have the last five days reserved for Ron Johnson, whatever he needs, so Paul Ryan will be out campaigning across the state with him from Nov. 4, 5 and 6, he’s got the last four of five days which he’ll spend just totally dedicated to getting out the vote with Ron,” a GOP aide familiar with the operation told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
A source close to the Johnson campaign said Ryan’s popularity and respect within the state has made him an invaluable ally to the senator, with him acting as a sort of liaison to the political world.
Despite Johnson’s race once being dubbed a long shot by a number of political analysts, he’s managed to close what was once a significant gap. He now polls ahead or within the margin of Feingold, a fight Ryan helped brace him for.
“Ryan has spent the last six years advising Ron Johnson and helping his team get ready for a tough rematch,” the GOP aide told TheDCNF. “With state legislators, Governor Walker, and the Republican Party of Wisconsin helping out – Speaker Ryan has helped fund and build the party infrastructure in the state of Wisconsin.”
The two Wisconsinites have built a strong bond throughout their time in Congress, with Ryan serving as a mentor-like figure to Johnson, a political outsider who helped build a manufacturing company in Oshkosh before defeating Feingold in 2010.
“They’ve had a very close relationship for years. Ron Johnson wasn’t an elected official before and so, Paul Ryan although being younger, had been in office before,” the GOP aide told TheDCNF. “It’s nice, the delegation is close and they work well together, they talk quite frequently, and so that’s that part of tutelage and guidance about how to approach an election and game plan ahead of time.”
The unusual nature of the 2016 election cycle has presented a unique set of challenges for many congressional Republicans fighting to retain their seats, but Ryan has been vocal about his dedication to helping down-ballot races. The speaker has been effective in raising funds for the party, in an effort to make sure candidates, like Johnson, have the resources they need to run a successful campaign.
Due to being prone to difficult races, the Wisconsin Republican Party has become one of the most unified and well-funded operations in the country — with much of this year’s fiscal success being attributed to Ryan’s investments in addition to money coming in from the RNC. Ryan for Congress donated a whopping $500,000 to the state party in May and wrote a check for an additional $250,000 in September with more expected to come.
In Johnson’s case, Ryan’s congressional campaign account and leadership PAC, Prosperity Action PAC, have maxed the amount of campaign contributions allowed.
“To have a surrogate like that, who’s a messenger like that, who’s as popular and respected as he is and have a fundraiser who can make it rain the way he can is frankly a one-of-a-kind asset that the Wisconsin Senate race has and is hard to find elsewhere,” a source familiar with the campaign told TheDCNF. “Not only is Paul here in our home state, but as a result he and Ron are very close, and to have a guy like that in your corner anytime you need him is pretty valuable.”
The Johnson camp is hoping to build on its recent momentum by ramping up its efforts during its final weeks.
“Wisconsin Republicans have shown time and again they can win with the best-in-the-nation ground game they’ve built, and the grassroots army we’re mobilizing is our most powerful weapon headed into November,” Johnson spokesman Brian Reisinger told TheDCNF in a statement. “Ron appreciates Paul Ryan’s support, and the work he’s done with his ‘Better Way’ agenda to take on Washington dysfunction and get our country on the right track.”
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