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

Wisconsin Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonGrassley pressured to run as Democrats set sights on Iowa Sunday shows preview: Bipartisan infrastructure talks drag on; Democrats plow ahead with Jan. 6 probe Democrats question GOP shift on vaccines 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 TrumpRonny Jackson, former White House doctor, predicts Biden will resign McCarthy: Pelosi appointing members of Jan. 6 panel who share 'pre-conceived narrative' Kinzinger denounces 'lies and conspiracy theories' while accepting spot on Jan. 6 panel MORE won Wisconsin narrowly in 2016 by under 1 percentage point, while Johnson won reelection that year by about 3 points. However, President BidenJoe BidenHouse Republican calls second bout of COVID-19 'far more challenging' Conflicting school mask guidance sparks confusion Biden: Pathway to citizenship in reconciliation package 'remains to be seen' MORE won Wisconsin last year just over 20,000 votes, and Democrats scored wins in the 2018 statewide races, with Sen. Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinManaging the US dollar to pay for congressional infrastructure plans Duckworth, Pressley introduce bill to provide paid family leave for those who experience miscarriage Senate Democrats call for Medicaid-like plan to cover non-expansion states 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 KindBiden's midterm strategies start to come into focus Cotton heads to Iowa to launch 'Veterans to Victory' program Exclusive: Conservative group targets vulnerable Democrats over abortion 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.