RON JOHNSON PLANS A ‘RE-EDUCATION OF AMERICA’…. Wisconsin Senate hopeful Ron Johnson reminds me a bit of Pennsylvania’s Pat Toomey — both are very lucky they’re being overshadowed by other extremist candidates.

In a typical year, Johnson’s bizarre, misguided worldview would be a pretty major national story. The chattering class would marvel at questions like, “Would Wisconsin really elect a far-right radical to the U.S. Senate?” But this isn’t a typical year, and unhinged candidates like Angle, Paul, O’Donnell, Miller, and Buck have garnered enough attention that Johnson can run in relative anonymity outside his home state.

This week, Politico‘s Jim VandeHei reported from Wisconsin on the significance of the Senate race pitting Johnson against Sen. Russ Feingold (D), and the GOP candidate reflected a bit on his future plans.

Guided by GOP insider Curt Anderson, Johnson has poured millions of dollars into what often seems like a rather cautious campaign. In the interview, it was clear the professional handlers have gotten to Johnson. He is very reluctant to engage in specifics on Social Security and Medicare, even though his admiration of and ideological connection to fellow Wisconsinite Rep. Paul Ryan make plain what direction he would head in if elected. […]

[H]e watches his words, ignoring the fact that he’s already making the trade-offs conventional politicians make to win office. It will be different once and if he wins, he promises. Then, his true feelings can take voice. [emphasis added]

Is that so. Vote for Johnson in November and then voters will get to see what he’s all about. Call me old fashioned, but that sounds backwards.

Elsewhere in the Politico piece, VandeHei asked what kind of innovative ideas Johnson might pursue as a U.S. senator. Johnson skipped right past substantive issues, and committed himself to a “re-education of America.”

Are you kidding me? Can you even imagine what the response would be if a liberal Democrat vowed to pursue a “re-education of America” if elected to the U.S. Senate?

Maybe Wisconsin voters just don’t know what they’re getting themselves into; maybe they do and they’re angry enough not to care. Regardless, Johnson may not get the exposure some of his extremist allies get in Nevada, Delaware, and Kentucky, but the differences between his right-wing worldview and theirs are practically non-existent.

We are, after all, talking about the far-right candidate who rails against government intervention in private industry, but has sought and received federal aid for his business enterprises. He thinks “sunspots” cause global warming, which doesn’t make any sense. He’s argued that China is better for businesses than the United States. He thinks Greenland has snow because of global cooling. At the height of the BP oil spill disaster, he said he’d sell his BP stock, just as soon as it was more profitable for him.

More recently, Johnson has boasted in ads about his disdain for Social Security. Worse, he’s said he hates the stimulus, then got caught seeking stimulus funds, and then said asking for stimulus money isn’t proof that he wanted the money. He’s had a scandalous role in trying to protect child molesters from abuse lawsuits, and his story about being a self-made success in business isn’t quite what it appears to be.

And now he intends to launch a “re-education of America.”

Given all of this, it’s awfully difficult to take Ron Johnson seriously. At least, it would be, if he weren’t leading in every poll.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.