Republicans seek to swing Wisconsin back to their side

Republicans are heading to Wisconsin next week for their national convention, underscoring the importance of a battleground state that will help determine the presidency this fall.

The Republican National Convention is set to kick off on Monday in Milwaukee, a liberal stronghold in a largely purple state that Donald Trump narrowly lost to President Biden in 2020 by just over 20,000 votes.

“Wisconsin is one of the handful of states that has flipped back and forth between the last two presidential elections, so for a party that’s concerned about winning the Electoral College, this is a state where they would naturally look,” explained Barry Burden, a political science professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Republicans are set to officially coronate Trump as their 2024 nominee. Wisconsin was one of the critical battleground states to deliver the former president’s win in 2016 by roughly 22,000 votes. It also constructed the “Blue Wall” that flipped for Biden four years later.

But Biden’s disastrous debate performance in Atlanta has raised concerns that the event could jeopardize his path back to the White House in key states like Wisconsin.

An aggregate of polls from The Hill and Decision Desk HQ shows Biden leading Trump by a hair, 47 percent to 46 percent. Meanwhile, Democrats are also looking to hold onto Sen. Tammy Baldwin’s (D) seat in the upper chamber, making Wisconsin one of the crucial states in an election that will likely hinge on just a handful of battlegrounds.

Recent polling has shown the president faring better in Wisconsin compared to the other battleground states. An aggregate of Pennsylvania polls from The Hill and Decision Desk HQ shows Trump leading in Biden’s birth state by 4 points; in Arizona, the aggregate shows Trump leading Biden 4 points and in Georgia, by roughly 3 points.

The only state where Biden appears to be faring just as competitively as Wisconsin is Michigan, where the polling average between Biden and Trump shows the two essentially tied at 47 percent.

Though it’s too soon to tell whether Biden’s first debate performance against Trump about two weeks ago may have damaged his standing in the race long term, some surveys have started to suggest the president will see a dip in the state.

An AARP Wisconsin poll, conducted by Fabrizio Ward and Impact Research and released on Tuesday, showed Trump leading Biden in a head-to-head matchup 50 percent to 45 percent. When they’re placed on the full ballot with several other long-shot candidates, Trump leads the president 44 percent to 38 percent.

Burden said there wasn’t an easy explanation for why Biden seemed to fare better in Wisconsin polling versus other battleground states.

Still, the president still had his work cut out for him in the Badger State.

“…It seems to me as though Trump … has his arms around the Republican electorate more convincingly than Biden does around Democrats, and that’s even before the debate performance from a couple of weeks ago,” the Wisconsin political science professor explained.

Both candidates are keenly aware of the importance of Wisconsin in the race to the White House. Trump has traveled to the Badger State three times alone this year; Biden has traveled to Wisconsin five times, most recently last week, when he held a rally in Madison.

Wisconsin, too, will play an important role in the road to the Senate majority with Baldwin up for reelection. For now, the seat is favored to remain in Democratic hands, with the nonpartisan election handicapper Cook Political Report rating her seat “lean Democrat.”

Baldwin was notably absent from the president’s rally in Madison last week due to a preplanned statewide tour conflict, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

The Wisconsin Democrat declined to weigh in on Biden’s candidacy during a campaign event on Sunday, saying “I’m focused on my own campaign right now” and “it’s his decision,” WKOW reported.

She noted she would be “fighting for the entire Democratic ticket.”

Some Democrats say the bedwetting is nothing new but feel still feel confident with Biden in the race.

“Both sides, frankly, have work to do because both sides have challenges unique to their candidacy. And all of that said I would still rather be Joe Biden than Donald Trump, because Democrats have won 14 of the last 17 statewide races here,” said Democratic strategist Joe Zepecki. “[Tammy] Baldwin was an incredibly strong candidate who I think will help Joe Biden, in the same way that [Sen.] Ron Johnson helped Donald Trump in 2016.”

At the same time, a not insignificant portion of voters cast ballots for somebody other than Trump during the GOP primary in April, with roughly 20 percent voting for Nikki Haley, Ron DeSantis, Chris Christie or the option of “uninstructed delegate.”

Republicans suggest many of those Wisconsin voters will eventually come back to the base. Trump was aided by the fact that Haley endorsed the former president and urged for her delegates to recommit to Trump during the RNC.

“If you’re motivated enough to go vote in a presidential primary, you’re probably likely to come home to your … party’s candidates, but not all of it will,” said GOP strategist Mark Graul.

“I think there are more options for the dissatisfied Democrats than there are for dissatisfied Republicans to be honest,” he added.

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