MADISON, Wis. — Democratic Senate candidate Russ Feingold released his highest quarterly fundraising numbers of the campaign Monday as his former colleague, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, planned to hold a pair of Wisconsin rallies later in the week to urge early voting in the race.
And in a blow for Feingold’s opponent Sen. Ron Johnson, the National Republican Senatorial Committee pulled ad reservations in Wisconsin to free up $800,000 to spend on other races. Johnson has consistently trailed Feingold in public polling in the rematch of their 2010 race.
The Sanders rallies on Wednesday in Madison and Green Bay will mark his first appearance in Wisconsin since winning the state’s primary in April. He has been traveling on behalf of Hillary Clinton’s campaign, and will be encouraging early voting in Wisconsin in both the presidential and Senate race.
Feingold planned to attend the Madison rally with Sanders. The Green Bay rally is in the open 8th Congressional District, where Democrat Tom Nelson is running against Republican Mike Gallagher.
That congressional race in northeast Wisconsin and Feingold’s rematch with Johnson are the two hottest Wisconsin contests this year.
Feingold reported Monday that he raised $5.2 million for the three-month period ending in September. That’s up from the $4.1 million he raised the previous quarter and $3.3 million in the first quarter. Feingold did not say how much cash on hand he had for the final weeks before the election.
Johnson has yet to release his latest fundraising numbers. They aren’t due to be reported until Oct. 27.
Through the end of July, Feingold had slightly outraised Johnson $15.5 million to $14.7 million. But outside groups are spending much more heavily to help Johnson — $6.2 million for the Republican incumbent to $1.2 million for Feingold.
The NRSC, which works to elect Republicans nationwide, was sticking with a six-figure coordinated ad buy starting next week in Wisconsin, while canceling the future reservations, said the group’s spokeswoman Andrea Bozek.
“We are confident that he will have the necessary resources to highlight his manufacturing experience which is in stark contrast with Senator Russ Feingold who has spent 34 years in political office and broke every promise he made to Wisconsin families,” Bozek said.
Just last week a super PAC supporting Johnson, the Reform Wisconsin Fund, launched a $365,000 attack ad against Feingold over his views on abortion.
“This race remains as tight as ever, and Senator Feingold has wasted millions of dollars on misleading ads with nothing to show for it,” said Johnson’s spokesman Brian Reisinger. “We’re confident in the support Ron is receiving.”
The Wisconsin Senate race is one of the most closely watched races nationally, with Democrats viewing it as ripe for picking up a seat as they try to regain the majority.
Democrats are optimistic given that no Republican senator in Wisconsin has been elected in a presidential year since 1980. Wisconsin hasn’t voted for a Republican for president since Ronald Reagan in 1984.
The most recent Marquette University Law School poll, released Sept. 21, showed Feingold up by 6 points. That same poll showed the presidential race in Wisconsin between Clinton and Republican Donald Trump to be about even.
Trump’s Wisconsin director, Pete Meachum, said in a statement that a visit from Sanders would not help her campaign.
“Wisconsinites want a president that they can trust, and time and time again, Hillary Clinton proves that she is unfit for Wisconsin and to be president,” Meachum said.
Trump planned to return to Wisconsin on Saturday, his second visit in 10 days.