The second and final debate of Wisconsin’s U.S. Senate campaign saw the candidates clash on a wide range of issues, including health care, the economy, and national security. It also highlighted a stark contrast between Republican Sen. Ron Johnson and Democrat Russ Feingold on issues such as tackling student loan debt and dealing with immigration reform.
Johnson and Feingold met Tuesday night on the campus of Marquette University for a debate organized by WISN-TV. Sitting next to each other, the 90 minute meeting was at times contentious, with both candidates going on the attack while also defending their records. Feingold is trying to reclaim the seat he lost to Johnson in the 2010 election.
Much like their first debate last Friday, presidential politics again played a role in Tuesday’s meeting. Feingold criticized Johnson for continuing to stand by Republican nominee Donald Trump, at a time when many GOP leaders have backed away from him amid the controversy over past sexually aggressive comments and allegations he groped women. “Senator Johnson is going to vote for and supports a man for president of the United States that just about everyone knows shouldn’t be president,” Feingold said.
Johnson said he wasn’t going to “defend the indefensible” when it comes to the allegations facing Trump, but said the two are on the same side on the biggest issues facing the nation. He also criticized Feingold for his support of Democrat Hillary Clinton, someone he argued is not trustworthy based on scandals surrounding her career.
Feingold defended Clinton, saying she may not be perfect, but she is more than qualified to be president.
Feingold was highly critical of Johnson joining Senate Republicans in delaying a decision to fill a vacany on the U.S. Supreme Court, following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia last February. The Senate GOP has vowed not to hold confirmation hearings on Merrick Garland’s nomination to the post until after the election, a position Feingold argued disqualifies Johnson from office. “He has been a key part of denying the president of the United States his role…to have an appointment considered,” Feingold said.
Johnson said he will vote to confirm judges, but not “liberal activists,” and maintained the argument that the Senate has the right to withhold its consent of a nominee until the next president has a chance to weigh in. Feingold said he believes Justice Scalia would be “horrified” to see the damage the Senate is doing to the high court by leaving the seat empty for so long.
Johnson and Feingold are locked in a tight race, with a Marquette University Law School poll released last week showing Feingold leading by just two points. However, a St. Norbert College poll released Tuesday showed Feingold with a 12 point lead over Johnson, with a margin of error of 3.8 percent.