Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) said this week he may not be the best Republican candidate for the current election cycle, pointing to how he is targeted frequently by critics.
“I want to make sure that this U.S. Senate seat is retained in Republican hands,” Johnson told radio host Lisa Boothe.
“You see what the media’s doing to me. I may not be the best candidate. I wouldn’t run if I don’t think I could win if I don’t think I was the best person to be able to win,” he added.
Johnson, 66, entered the Senate in 2011 and won reelection in 2016.
But he has put off declaring a bid for another term, effectively freezing the Republican field, even though he received an endorsement from former President Donald Trump.
“Even though he has not yet announced that he is running, and I certainly hope he does, I am giving my Complete and Total Endorsement to Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin. He is brave, he is bold, he loves our Country, our Military, and our Vets. He will protect our Second Amendment, and everything else we stand for. It is the kind of courage we need in the U.S. Senate. He has no idea how popular he is. Run, Ron, Run!” Trump said in April.
Media outlets and technology companies frequently target Johnson for stances that go against their narratives, such as the promotion of certain treatments for COVID-19.
Johnson said he’s perplexed about the attacks but believes they stem from colleagues not wanting to touch potentially polarizing issues because they’re focused in part on getting reelected.
“So when my colleagues see the roadkill that it probably looks like I am after the media just rakes me over the coals relentlessly, I can certainly understand why somebody would not want to touch some of these issues or say some things I say, tell some [of] the truths that I tell—why would anyone want to touch that with a 10-foot pole,” he said.
Johnson has previously indicated a reluctance to run again, citing a pledge he made to only serve two terms in office.
No Republicans have declared yet for the race, as potential candidates wait to see what Johnson will do.
Seven Democrats have already launched campaigns, including Wisconsin Treasurer Sarah Godlewski, Wisconsin Sen. Chris Larson, and Milwaukee Bucks executive Marc Lasry.
Lasry has described Johnson as Trump’s “most trusted lackey in the U.S. Senate.”
Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson, another Democrat candidate, claimed that Johnson “spent four years begging for Trump’s approval.”
Each Senate race in the midterms has outsized significance because of how the upper chamber is divided 50-50 between Republic and Democrats or nominal independents who regularly vote with Democrats.
Democrats hold the tiebreaker because they also hold the presidency, a slim margin of control they could lose if Republicans gain a seat in 2022.
The GOP lost two seats in 2020.
Thirty-four Senate seats are up for election, with 20 of them being held by Republicans.