How Trump Can Win Wisconsin in 2020

How Trump Can Win Wisconsin in 2020
AP Photo/Mike Roemer
How Trump Can Win Wisconsin in 2020
AP Photo/Mike Roemer
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Wisconsin is a critical state to President Trump’s re-election strategy. He shocked the political world when he beat Hillary Clinton there by just over 20,000 votes, propelling him to the White House.  But Republican Gov. Scott Walker just lost a bid for a third term, setting up some challenges for Trump to win the state again in 2020. Nevertheless, he’s is in a good position to repeat his victory -- if conservatives organize now to help him. Here’s how Trump can prevail again.

Winning Wisconsin is an integral part of a re-election strategy focusing on shoring up support in Ohio, Michigan, Iowa, and the Badger State, while making a run at Minnesota, which the president lost by only 44,000 votes. Any calculation to get him to 270 electoral votes has to include Wisconsin’s 10. His policies have greatly benefited the state as he has gone to bat for its dairy industry, brought in jobs and delivered tax cuts.

Yet conventional wisdom is that it will be very difficult for Trump to win Wisconsin again. The NeverTrump movement was centered in this state as much as it was a D.C. swamp creation. (Remember, Ted Cruz beat Trump in Wisconsin’s April 2016 primary.) Walker’s margins this year in the typical GOP strongholds of Milwaukee’s suburbs were down 6 percent to 7 percent from his prior elections. So Trump has much work to do.

But he starts out in a good position. The final Marquette Law School Poll of the 2018 election found that his favorability rating was up to 47 percent approve and 50 percent disapprove. Trump won in 2016 with the same poll showing his popularity at only 35 percent favorable and 61 percent unfavorable. Even in June of 2017, his approval was only at 41 percent.

The Republican Party is being re-configured in Wisconsin after Walker’s loss. This had been a successful state party built by the longtime governor, Reince Priebus and Paul Ryan. But now there is much Monday morning quarterbacking about what went wrong in 2018.

The GOP first needs to focus on re-building the county parties. Give local leaders the tools and training they need to be successful. Find Trump Democrats and make them feel welcome. Personally ask former party members, loyal GOP voters, and new Trump Republicans to rejoin or join the local party to help re-elect the president. For his part, Trump can help by visiting the state as often as he can and having his family travel here even more frequently. They should be crisscrossing it for the next 23 months.

Trump should communicate how his policies are helping Wisconsin in particular and how his America First stance is great for the country. As we near the year’s end, many voters will soon be filing income taxes and seeing the fruit of the GOP tax cut. Republicans need to message well on how this all works. Trump needs Wisconsin surrogates who can aggressively defend his policies regularly on TV, radio, and in print.

Geographically, the president needs to run up the score in the Fox Valley region, as well as in western and northern Wisconsin, and compete in southeastern Wisconsin. For all the talk of the so-called WOW counties (Waukesha, Ozaukee, Washington), many forget that Trump flipped Racine County, which Obama had won, and he essentially tied Clinton in Kenosha County, which Obama had won by double digits. Trump himself needs to visit these areas.

He also needs to continue his appeal to inner city voters. On the 2016 campaign trail, Trump came to West Bend and laid out his inner city agenda. That was a key moment that many have forgotten about, and the full speech is worth a read even today. Fast-forward to 2018 and his policies are helping. Trump helped some 2018 candidates increase their numbers with African-American voters, males in particular. He needs to continue to ask for partnerships and support in the city of Milwaukee. Trump also needs an army of volunteer organizers going door to door to get more voters to the polls.

The common theme in all of this is that conservatives need to organize now and Trump and his family/team need to visit the state often. Wisconsin needs to be a major priority. Trump is in a better position than the NeverTrumpers like to admit, but there is much work to be done both by the campaign and Republicans across the state. 

Matt Batzel is the Wisconsin-based national executive director of American Majority Action, a grassroots conservative organization.

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