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Johnson says leaving office after 2022 'probably my preference now'

Wisconsin Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonThe Hill's Morning Report - Biden assails 'epidemic' of gun violence amid SC, Texas shootings Trump faces test of power with early endorsements Trump endorses Rand Paul for reelection MORE (R) said Friday that he has not decided on whether to run for reelection next year but hinted that retiring after the end of his second term is “probably my preference now.” 

Johnson made a vow to serve only two terms in the Senate when he first ran for the upper chamber, and his seat is expected to be hotly contested by Democrats whether or not he runs again. In comments to Wisconsin media outlets that his office confirmed to The Hill, Johnson indicated he’s leaning toward honoring his pledge but added the caveat that the promise was made when Democrats did not hold full control of Washington.

"That pledge is on my mind, it was my preference then, I would say it’s probably my preference now," Johnson said. "I’m happy to go home."

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"I think that pledge was based on the assumption we wouldn’t have Democrats in total control of government and we’re seeing what I would consider the devastating and harmful effects of Democrats total control just ramming things through," he said. 

While speculation swirls over whether the swing-state Republican will fight for a third term, Johnson indicated Friday he’s in no hurry to make up his mind given that the midterm contests are still 20 months away.

"The only people who want me to decide right now are consultants, and particularly the consultants of other people who may want to run for the U.S. Senate seat, they’d like to start raising money and start making money right off the bat," Johnson told 620 WTMJ radio Friday. "I think it’ll save everybody a lot of money by just holding tight and making a decision when I’m ready to."

Wisconsin is a lynchpin of both parties’ strategies for controlling the next Senate. Democrats are eager to expand their 50-50 majority, and Johnson’s seat, along with those in Pennsylvania and North Carolina, is a top target. Republicans are going on offense in Georgia and Arizona, as well as Nevada and New Hampshire, but could face headwinds in retaking the upper chamber if they lose Johnson’s seat.

Former President TrumpDonald TrumpRomney blasts end of filibuster, expansion of SCOTUS McConnell, GOP slam Biden's executive order on SCOTUS US raises concerns about Iran's seriousness in nuclear talks MORE won Wisconsin narrowly in 2016 by under 1 percentage point, while Johnson won reelection that year by about 3 points. However, President BidenJoe BidenBiden taps California workplace safety leader to head up OSHA Romney blasts end of filibuster, expansion of SCOTUS US mulling cash payments to help curb migration MORE won Wisconsin last year just over 20,000 votes, and Democrats scored wins in the 2018 statewide races, with Sen. Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinMary Trump joining group that supports LGBTQ+ female candidates Johnson says leaving office after 2022 'probably my preference now' Democrats push Biden to include recurring payments in recovery package MORE (D) cruising to reelection.

A number of Democrats have already jumped into the 2022 Wisconsin Senate race, including Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson, Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry and Marshfield radiologist Gillian Battino. State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski (D) and Rep. Ron KindRonald (Ron) James KindTrump calls on Ron Johnson to run for reelection Bottom line Johnson, Grassley indecision freezes key Senate races MORE (D) are also considering bids.

Speculation over Johnson’s electoral future comes as the Wisconsin Republican thrusts himself into the center of the Senate debate over Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package. Johnson has come out swinging against the bill as too expensive, and irked senators of both parties by forcing the chamber’s clerks to read the entire piece of legislation.