Trump endorses Wisconsin’s Johnson, encourages him to run

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Former President Donald Trump offered his “Total Endorsement” of Wisconsin’s Republican Sen. Ron Johnson on Thursday, encouraging him to seek a third term as he mulls whether to run again or retire.

Johnson’s seat in battleground Wisconsin is up in 2022. After previously saying he would not run again, Johnson is now saying he’s considering it and doesn’t feel any pressure to make a decision soon.

Johnson, in a text to The Associated Press, said he appreciated Trump’s “words of support and encouragement.” He did not respond when asked who Trump’s endorsement affects his decision-making process.

Johnson emerged as one of Trump’s most ardent supporters toward the end of his term. Johnson held a Senate committee hearing on Dec. 16 to look into unfounded election fraud complaints largely perpetuated Trump’s baseless claims. And on Jan. 6, just before the U.S. Capitol was stormed, Johnson objected to counting the Electoral College votes from Arizona.

“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,” Trump said in a statement released by his political action committee. “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!”

The endorsement came ahead of the Republican National Committee’s spring donor retreat in Palm Beach, Florida, this weekend where Johnson was slated to speak. Trump was to deliver an address to donors at his private club, Mar-a-Lago.

Trump narrowly won Wisconsin in 2016 by less than 23,000 votes and lost the state in November by just over 20,000 votes. Johnson defeated Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold in 2010 and then again in a rematch in 2016.

Johnson, in an interview on Wednesday, said he felt no pressure to make a decision on seeking a third term anytime soon.

“I think an awful lot of things have to play out,” Johnson said. “I don’t have to make up my mind. These campaigns are way too long to spend way too much money. I mean, I’m doing everybody a favor, quite honestly.”

While Johnson ponders what to do, several Democrats have already gotten in the race, including Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry and Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson. Other Democrats, including Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes and state Treasurer Sarah Godlewski, are considering it.

Lasry responded to the endorsement on Twitter by saying Johnson “has been Donald Trump’s most trusted lackey in the U.S. Senate. It’s no surprise that Trump is supporting him for reelection. We need a Senator who will work for Wisconsinites, not for his political allies.”

Nelson tweeted that Johnson got “a pat on the head from the worst president ever,” saying that Johnson “spent four years begging for Trump’s approval.”