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  /  News   /  Road to the White House may go through Wisconsin

Road to the White House may go through Wisconsin

(NewsNation) — The tightest state to win on election night could be Wisconsin, which has come down to less than 1% of the vote in four of the last six presidential elections. 

Campaigns for President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump know this year will likely be no different and are responding accordingly.

The Biden campaign, in concert with the state’s Democratic Party and Democratic National Committee, has nearly 100 staffers and has already opened 46 offices around the state. 

While the Trump campaign is playing catch-up, a Republican official said that through a coordinated effort between the campaign, the Republican National Committee, and the Wisconsin GOP, there are plans to open 30 offices in the state by June 1.  

Biden-Harris campaign

The chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, Ben Wikler, acknowledges Wisconsin will be a nail-biter, saying the campaign will focus on two groups of persuadable voters. 

“One of them is persuasion for people who might not vote for Biden but might vote for Trump or RFK [Robert F. Kennedy Jr.]. And then the other is people who need to be persuaded to participate who might sit out the election otherwise,” he said.

Trump, Biden take different approaches in swing state North Carolina

He said the campaign is struggling with how to get the word out about Biden’s accomplishments — like cutting the cost of insulin to $35 a month for those on Medicare and relieving student debt — to Wisconsin voters in today’s fractured media environment. 

However, the main issues the campaign will focus on are jobs, infrastructure and abortion.

Last week, Biden visited Racine to announce a new $3.3 billion investment by Microsoft to build a new data center in the area. The project is expected to create 2,300 union construction jobs and 2,000 permanent jobs in Wisconsin. 

Biden lauded the investment in comparison with Trump’s failed project to bring Taiwanese electronic manufacturer Foxconn to the state, which was supposed to bring thousands of jobs but never did.  

After the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, abortion clinics in the state stopped performing abortions. A new law now bans abortion after 20 weeks – later than other states that have six or 12-week bans – and Wikler believes it remains important to voters. 

“For a lot of voters, personal freedom is actually the most sacred and central thing … having a real conversation with folks about how the Trump team is looking at ways to restrict access to abortion and ban mifepristone, for example, that can really shift a voter,” Wikler said.

The Democratic coordinated campaign is based in Milwaukee, but the 45 other field offices can be found around the state in rural areas, small towns, and cities. They’re hosting volunteer trainings, canvassing kickoffs and volunteer recruitment events. The campaign says it has thousands of volunteers and expects that number to keep growing.

Wikler acknowledges there are some structural advantages that the Republicans have, including “a set of laws in states like Wisconsin that make it difficult for voters, Black voters and young voters to cast ballots, which are folks that are often voting more Democratic than Republican,” he said. 

Wisconsin passed laws that shortened early voting windows, increased residency requirements and banned ballot drop-off boxes. 

In addition, the Republican National Convention is being held in Milwaukee this year, an acknowledgment of the importance of Wisconsin to the race. The Democrats held their convention in Milwaukee in 2020, but Biden didn’t attend in-person due to pandemic concerns. 

Trump vs. Biden: Comparing presidential track records

Despite these headwinds, Wikler said that the Biden 2024 campaign has a big advantage over the one in 2020: in-person campaigning. 

In 2020, he said the Biden campaign took the COVID-19 pandemic seriously and, therefore, didn’t really host in-person events or knock on doors. Conversely, the Trump campaign knocked on 2 million doors. That disparity will not happen this time around, Wikler said.

The Biden-Harris campaign says they’re not taking anything for granted and “will continue to highlight President Biden’s work to bring down costs for families and the threat Trump poses to our economy, our freedoms, and our democracy. Trump is far out-of-step with voters with his plans to ban abortion nationwide and kill good-paying Wisconsin jobs,” according to Wisconsin communications director Brianna Johnson.

Trump campaign

Chair of the Republican Party of Wisconsin, Brian Schimming, knows that Wisconsin will be a tight race and is working closely with the Republican National Committee and the Trump campaign to eke out a win.

Trump’s senior campaign strategist, Chris LaCivita, knows Wisconsin well. He successfully helped run GOP Sen. Ron Johnson’s reelection campaign. Wikler said he expects LaCivita to leverage his knowledge of the state for Trump’s benefit.

Staff on the ground in Wisconsin are focused on election integrity and grassroots organizing, according to an RNC spokesperson.

Schimming says that last year, they recruited 5,500 poll workers, 1,000 of whom were used in the recent spring election. After Trump’s April second rally in Green Bay, they filled about 1,000 volunteer shifts for poll watchers.

A Republican official says there’s currently a plan to open 30 offices, and volunteers are being trained in election integrity and organizing. 

Schimming said the Republican Party of Wisconsin “has already made over 180,000 voter contacts for the 2024 cycle.” 

Trump, Biden agree to debate June 27, Sept. 10

In addition to door-knocking, volunteers are also being trained to use their social media. At the state’s GOP convention this week, Schimming plans to show “how easy and secure it is to volunteer, vote, and make a difference in this election” from his phone.

Aside from turning out their base, Schimming said they’re focused on low-propensity voters, undecideds and disenchanted Democrats. The message to those voters will focus on the economy, the border and national security.

While inflation in the Midwest is lower than the rest of the country (2.8% versus 3.4%) and gas prices in Wisconsin are lower than the national average and lower by more than six cents compared to last year, Republicans believe Wisconsinites are still struggling. 

Schimming said, “We intend to present voters a clear choice between the records of Trump and Biden” when it comes to the economy, citing the rise in cost of goods as evidence for their economic argument. They believe Americans were better off under Trump on all three of the main issues they’ll focus on.

“By combining forces and operations, The Trump campaign and RNC are deploying operations that are fueled by passionate volunteers who care about saving America and firing Joe Biden,” said Trump Campaign senior adviser and RNC Chief of Staff Chris LaCivita.

The campaign declined to provide further details on their strategy when asked.

When it comes to the final result, both parties are cautiously optimistic, citing enthusiasm and organization as the keys to their success.