WASHINGTON — After months of holding his cards close to his chest, two-term U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin, finally put them on the table. Sunday, he penned a letter announcing his intentions to seek a third term.

What You Need To Know

  • Sen. Ron Johnson , R-Wisconsin announced on Suncday he is seeking a third term

  • There are 12 Democrats running to unseat Johnson

  • Johnson previosuly vowed to only serve two terms. He says Democrats' handling of the pandemic and economy is the reason why he's running again

“Johnson has been ramping up fundraising, but not as much as many incumbents seeking reelection had done,” said Charles Franklin, director of the Marquette Law School Poll. “And he had delayed hiring staff for the campaign. Both of those things — hiring staff anyway — happened over the weekend. And the fundraising appeals have started going out as well.”

The senator vowed to term-limit himself when he first ran in 2010. He reneged on that promise with his weekend announcement, citing the Democrats' handling of the pandemic and the economy as reasons why he’s throwing his hat in the race again.

“From what we're seeing, the stakes couldn't be higher,” said Chris Walker, the RNC director of regional communications. “Because what we're seeing is just absolute failure from the Democrats. And Republicans need to win back the House and the Senate to try to bring some balance back to Washington.”

Democrats called Johnson a hypocrite for going back on his word.

“Wisconsin voters are going to hold Ron Johnson accountable not only for breaking his promise about his term pledge, but for his record of self serving politics,” said Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee's communications director, David Bernstein. "He's voted to spike the cost of health care. He's voted against services for for veterans for programs that help with sponsons at Wisconsin agriculture, and Ron Johnson is constantly looking out for himself. And he's hurting Wisconsin families. And that's exactly why voters are going to fire him in 2022.”

The Republican incumbent said he is looking to galvanize a base that has seemingly grown more conservative over the past few cycles. A Marquette Law School survey released in November found a majority of Republicans want former President Donald Trump to run for president in 2024. Johnson has been a staunch supporter of Trump.

“The Republican Party in Wisconsin remains very solidly behind President Trump and very solidly behind Ron Johnson,” said Franklin. “And Republican views of Johnson have barely budged over the last six years. There is high support, high favorability ratings [for Johnson] and also high support for Trump.”

But Johnson entered the race in a politically different Wisconsin. Since his 2016 re-election, the state shifted slightly to the left voting for Joe Biden in 2020. His 2010 margin of victory also shrank by two points in 2016. Franklin said Johnson is set to face his toughest challenge yet.

“In October, we asked a question about, would you reelect Ron Johnson, or would you vote for someone else? With Johnson, 38 percent said they would vote to reelect,” said Franklin. “And where that's coming from is the opposing party is nearly unanimous in opposition. And independents are not at all settled at this point. So, I think what you see is an antipathy to incumbents right now. But that's true of both parties, and leaves them both needing to find another 10 percent or so voters to reach the magic 50-percent point.”

Franklin said the shrinking footprint of true independent voters in the state could be a challenge for the incumbent as well.