Wisconsin Democrats line up behind Barnes in bid to unseat US Senator Johnson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry will end his run for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate in Wisconsin, party officials said on Wednesday, as Democrats lined up behind Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes to face the Republican Ron Johnson.

Lasry, who has spent more than $12 million on his campaign and ended it less than two weeks before the primary, endorsed Barnes after trailing him by just a few percentage points in opinion polls. Another Democratic candidate, Tom Nelson, dropped out of the race on Monday and also endorsed Barnes.

“I am so grateful to Alex for all the work he has done to move Wisconsin forward, and I am proud to have his endorsement,” Barnes said in a statement. “We are going to unite Wisconsinites from every corner of the state to defeat Ron Johnson.”

Johnson, a staunch ally of former President Donald Trump who entered the Senate during the conservative Tea Party wave of 2010, has long been a target for Democrats and has been hit this year by low job approval numbers.

Johnson’s seat is one of the few chances Democrats have to win a Senate seat in the Nov. 8 midterm elections. Republicans are the favorites to win a majority in the House, and Democrats are seen as having a better chance of defending their slim majority in the Senate.

But political analysts and Republican strategists say Johnson has often been underestimated by his opponents.

Polls show Barnes running neck-and-neck with Johnson, according to FiveThirtyEight.com, a website that tracks opinion polls and politics.

State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski, the only other major Democratic candidate for Senate in the Aug. 9 primary, has trailed Barnes well in the polls in single digits.

(Reporting by David Morgan in Washington; Editing by Scott Malone and Matthew Lewis)

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