Thursday, October 30th, 2014

In context: Johnson's analysis of state's conflicting Senate votes

Republican Ron Johnson, Wisconsin's senior senator, cracked into our High Five last month when we evaluated his claim about gun control
Republican Ron Johnson, Wisconsin's senior senator, cracked into our High Five last month when we evaluated his claim about gun control

"In Context" is an occasional  feature of PolitiFact Wisconsin. It is intended to give readers the context of a statement that has received widespread attention.

The day after the Nov. 6, 2012 election, political observers on both sides puzzled over the fact Wisconsin elected Madison Democrat Tammy Baldwin to the U.S. Senate just two years after voting in conservative Republican Ron Johnson.

Johnson weighed in, too, with comments that drew criticism from the left.

The businessman from Oshkosh told the Associated Press and conservative talk-radio hosts that voters had bought into demagoguery and misinformation from Democrats and President Barack Obama on the issue of reducing the deficit.

The Wisconsin AP quoted Johnson as saying:

"If you aren't properly informed, if you don't understand the problems facing this nation, you are that much more prone to falling prey to demagoguing solutions. And the problem with demagoguing solutions is they don't work. I am concerned about people who don't fully understand the very ugly math we are facing in this country."

We sought out a longer version of Johnson’s remarks to fully understand his comments. Here is a transcript of his comments Nov. 7, 2012 on the Mark Belling show on News/Talk 1130 WISN-AM in Milwaukee:

Belling: "Here we have this election result which seems to ratify everything you are opposed to. Are you discouraged by this?"

Johnson: "I’m obviously disappointed because as I was traveling around the state the case I was making was that this election is nothing short of about saving America.

"The real shame here is it’s going to be incredibly difficult now for us to stop the implementation of the health care law, which will destroy our healthcare system and bankrupt this nation.

"But Mark I tell you I haven’t thrown in the towel. I’m not about ready to quit. Now it’s a matter of figuring out a different strategy on what we can actually do. From my standpoint the strategy starts and almost ends with the information.

"The problem we had – and you were talking about it earlier – we had 2.2 million voters in my election, and 2.5 (million) in Scott’s and 3 million in this election, and that half million voters is always concerning me.

"Those individuals that weren’t engaged enough to get out there and vote in the recall, by and large I don’t believe are engaged enough in the process to be informed and really understand what’s at stake in this election. And so it’s about, from my standpoint, informing Americans and informing the voters of Wisconsin.

"And here’s the problem: Harry Reid and President Obama…can win an election saying we can solve the problems by just making the rich pay their fair share in a balanced approach to deficit reduction. Well that’s all well and good to say that but it’s not possible…"

Later, Belling asked Johnson about missteps in discussing rape that hurt Republican Senate candidates in Missouri and Indiana.

Johnson answered by outlining how the GOP could best inform voters.

Johnson: "Conservatives ought to have a strategy we can all tap into that we can all agree on. And by the way it would be far more coordinated and we could break through the communication barrier, because let’s face it the media’s not going to help us.

"We’ve got to do this on our own, together with talk radio."