Securing Trump support in the Midwest
Trump supporters in the Midwestern states who will decide whether President Donald J. Trump will win a second term next November are organizing, undergoing training and preparing to begin knocking on doors this winter. Last weekend nearly 250 volunteers gathered in West Allis, Wisconsin, to prepare what they all see as a yearlong battle to determine not just who will occupy the White House, but the future of the country itself. These were the men and women The New York Times referred to a couple of weeks ago in reporting on a poll of states like Wisconsin showing that Mr. Trump’s 2016 base remains intact.
Volunteers gathered for coffee and a program that began at 7 a.m. on a cold Saturday morning and ran through mid-afternoon. One of the first speakers, a strategist for Wisconsin campaigns, asked for a show of hands of those in the audience who know someone who voted for Mr. Trump in 2016 but doesn’t intend to vote for him again. Only one hand went up.
A fellow who reported rather sadly that his daughter has jumped ship and says she won’t vote to give Mr. Trump a second term. He assured everyone that he still has a year to bring her back on board and that he’s working hard to do just that.
So, as these folks see it, the problem isn’t that those who supported Mr. Trump last time are ready to abandon him, but that those Republicans who weren’t with him in 2016 have to be brought back on board. Mr. Trump may have carried the Badger State in 2016 in part because a lot of voters stayed home or simply didn’t vote for the presidential candidates.
Thousands of Wisconsin Democrats didn’t like Hillary Clinton and quite a few Republicans weren’t very enthusiastic about Mr. Trump. As a result, Wisconsinites cast fewer votes for president in 2016 than they had four years earlier when President Barack Obama carried the state against Mitt Romney. Republican strategists believe that to win 2020, the president needs something on the order of 110,000 votes more than in 2016.
The question is where to look for those new votes.
A lot of votes will need to, come from Republicans in the state’s top five urban and suburban counties that include Madison, Waukesha and Milwaukee. The state’s now senior Republican senator, Ron Johnson, was on the ballot in 2016 and in those counties he won 53,000 votes. Republican analysts suggest that few of these voters crossed over to vote for Mrs. Clinton; they voted for Sen. Johnson and went home. The Trump campaign’s first task is to persuade them to come out and to vote for the Republican.
The egg on the wall is that suburban voters are less enamored with Mr. Trump than they were four years ago. Strategists suggest, however, that given the Democrats’ lurch to the left, it may be possible, albeit difficult, to bring them around. Doing so will be essential to carrying Wisconsin next fall. In rural and small-town Wisconsin, Mr. Trump did so well in 2016 that there just doesn’t seem to be enough additional votes out there to add. That forces a focus on the urban and suburban counties especially around Milwaukee.
And that may already be happening. A just-released Marquette Law School poll shows that the president now leads all major Democratic wannabes in hypothetical general election match-ups. As recently as August, he had trailed Joe Biden by nine points, but he now leads the former vice president by three.
Just as interesting to many of those attending is the new-found willingness to go after minority votes in Milwaukee. In 2016, Hillary Clinton won Milwaukee County with nearly 289,000 votes to Mr. Trump’s 123,000. Of the city’s 600,000 people, about 60 percent are either black or Hispanic, and both groups gave Mrs. Clinton the votes she needed there to keep the state competitive.
What would happen, Wisconsin strategists wonder, if the Trump campaign could pick up another 5 percent or 6 percent of those votes? The New York Times poll suggests that this may be but assured readers not to worry too much as Democrats would still carry something like 90 percent of the black vote.
That sounds reassuring, and Democrats are right in suggesting that Mr. Trump can’t expect major gains from black voters, but in states like Wisconsin, Republican activists know that in a close race, a gain of 3 percent to 5 percent could make all the difference. With that thought, Republicans are doing what they have rarely done in recent years … go into minority neighborhoods, knock on doors and ask for support.
One thing is clear to anybody who spends time on the ground in a Midwestern state is that if the presidential race is going to be decided in places like Wisconsin as it was in 2016, Trump supporters are teaming up, getting trained and will be ready.
David A. Keene is an editor at large for The Washington Times.