MILWAUKEE - Former President Donald Trump endorsed Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson on Thursday, April 8, but the senator hasn't said if he's running for re-election.
The endorsement came on Johnson's 66th birthday, which Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chair Ben Wikler called a gift to Democrats.
It will be one of the closest-watched races of 2022, when control of the Senate is again up for grabs.
Sen. Johnson was a loyal supporter of Trump, and the two rallied several times in 2020, including at UWM Panther Arena in downtown Milwaukee.
"President Trump loves politics and President Trump hated losing the presidency and hated losing Wisconsin, by just a fraction, 20,000 some votes," said Mordecai Lee, UWM professor emeritus. "I think President Trump wants to get even. He wants to win Wisconsin with a surrogate."
In 2016, Sen. Johnson committed to just two terms but says the calculus has changed with Democrats controlling Congress and the White House.
"I don’t feel under real pressure to make that decision really soon, so we’ll see how things play out here," Sen. Johnson earlier told FOX6.
Two Democrats have already jumped in to win his seat: Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson and Milwaukee Bucks Executive Alex Lasry.
"The long dark shadow of Donald Trump is going to be here for a long time to come. We are going to see this in 2022, because Donald Trump is not going anywhere," Nelson said. "He’s going to put his hand on the scale and he’s going to look at Wisconsin and he’s going to make sure that his lackey, Ron Johnson, wins. But, Wisconsinites, we have his number. The jig is up. And we’re going to beat Ron Johnson in 2022."
Lasry's campaign sent out a fundraising letter, warning his supporters. "If this sounds urgent, it’s because it is. Donald Trump’s endorsement changes the entire campaign and gives Ron Johnson the full backing of the Trump machine."
The former president wrote in his endorsement of Sen. Johnson:
"Even though he has not yet announced that he is running, and I certainly hope he does, I am giving my Complete and Total Endorsement to Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin. He is brave, he is bold, he loves our Country, our Military, and our Vets. He will protect our Second Amendment, and everything else we stand for. It is the kind of courage we need in the U.S. Senate. He has no idea how popular he is. Run, Ron, Run!"
Sen. Johnson responded: "I appreciate President Trump's words of support and encouragement."
This weekend, Sen. Johnson will be speaking at the Republican National Committee donor retreat in Florida.