Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., joined by attorneys Paul D. Clement, far left, and Rick Esenberg, second from left, announces that he has filed a lawsuit to block the federal government from helping to pay for health care coverage for members of Congress and their staffs, Monday, Jan. 6, 2014.
J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo

Wisconsin’s Johnson draws Trump parallels

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) is in an unenviable spot. Few congressional Republicans are as vulnerable in 2016 as the far-right Wisconsinite; he hasn’t developed much of a legislative record; and polls show him trailing former Sen. Russ Feingold (D) in next year’s rematch.
Making matters worse, Johnson hasn’t done much to help his case lately. As we talked about a couple of weeks ago, the GOP senator got caught up in an odd fight over the “Lego Movie”; his ridiculous anti-Obamacare lawsuit was laughed out of court; and his defense for signing onto a letter intended to sabotage American foreign policy wasn’t especially coherent.
Johnson also referred during a recent radio interview to “idiot inner-city kids,” though he later said he was being sarcastic.
Yesterday, however, American Bridge released a new video with a recent Ron Johnson quote that stood out as especially interesting.
“I think what’s resonating about Donald Trump, I’d like to think, some things is appealing about my candidacy here in Wisconsin.”
Obviously, the grammar and syntax are a mess, but the point seems clear enough: Johnson apparently sees himself in the Trump-esque mold.
This isn’t a positive development – for the senator or his party.
At a certain level, perhaps this was inevitable. When one candidate rockets to the top of state and national Republican polling, it stands to reason that some GOP candidates, especially those facing tough re-election fights, would effectively tell voters, “Hey, I’m just like that guy!”
For Johnson, in particular, this must be especially tempting, since the far-right senator has a habit of making some pretty embarrassing comments. Why say, “I’m a clumsy, undisciplined politician,” when you can say, “I’m appealing in the same way Donald Trump is”?
But this is a risky strategy. Trump, a deeply unpopular national figure, is already dominating the Republican conversation in ridiculous ways, and he’s even had some influence over the GOP’s policy agenda.
When senators take the additional step of trying to capture some of the Trump excitement for themselves, it only helps solidify Trump’s role as some kind of party leader, which should be the last thing Republicans want.