Wisconsin Democrats line up behind Barnes in bid to unseat U.S. Senator Johnson

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

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

"I am so grateful to Alex for all of the work he's done to move Wisconsin forward, and I'm 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 saddled this year with low job approval numbers.

Johnson's seat is one of Democrats' few opportunities to pick up a Senate seat on the Nov. 8 midterm elections. Republicans are favored to win a majority in the House, with Democrats seen having a better chance of defending their razor-thin Senate majority.

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 Senate candidate in the Aug. 9 primary, has been polling well behind Barnes in the single digits.

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