Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes holds a 29-point lead in his state’s Democratic Senate primary, according to internal polling shared with The Hill that shows him cementing his status as the field’s likely front-runner.
In a seven-way contest, Barnes has the support of 37 percent of Democratic primary voters in Wisconsin, according to the poll, which was conducted by Clarity Campaign Labs for Barnes’s campaign. His closest rivals, Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson, state Treasurer Sarah Godlewski and Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry, are statistically tied at 8 percent, 7 percent and 5 percent, respectively.
Three other candidates, radiologist Gillian Battino, Milwaukee Common Council member Chantia Lewis and nonprofit leader Steven Olikara, are all tied at 1 percent each, the poll found. Thirty-eight percent of voters are still undecided.
The Senate race in Wisconsin is among the closest-watched — and most unpredictable — of the 2022 midterm cycle, given that Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonDomestic extremists return to the Capitol GOP senator: Buying Treasury bonds 'foolish' amid standoff over debt ceiling, taxes Internal poll shows Barnes with 29-point lead in Wisconsin Democratic Senate primary MORE (R-Wis.) hasn’t yet said whether he will seek a third term. The conservative firebrand previously vowed to serve only two terms in the upper chamber, though top GOP officials have suggested that he may break that pledge.
“I think he's going to run and I think he'll decide in the next few months,” Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said during a stop in Wisconsin last month.
The internal survey for Barnes’s campaign, which was conducted from Aug. 28 to 30, shows the lieutenant governor leading across a broad swath of Wisconsin voters, including among both men and women, as well in each of the state’s media markets.
“Wisconsin Democrats are united behind Mandela Barnes as the candidate who can defeat Ron Johnson and deliver real results for working families,” Barnes campaign manager Kory Kozloski said.
“They’ve seen first hand the work Mandela has done in every corner of this state, and they know they can trust him to invest in Wisconsin jobs and infrastructure, make universal healthcare a reality, safeguard reproductive freedoms and our Democracy, and tackle the climate crisis head-on.”
Barnes's popularity may be due in no small part to his high name recognition. He holds more than two-thirds name ID in every one of the state’s media markets and carries a 65 percent favorability rating among primary voters statewide, according to the poll.
His closest rival on that front, Godlewski, holds 22 percent favorability, while Lasry comes in with only 16 percent favorability, suggesting that Barnes remains far better known than any of his Democratic opponents.
The poll surveyed 698 likely Democratic primary voters using a mix of automated calls to landlines and live calls to cellphones. It has a margin of error of 3.7 percentage points.