Se­cur­ing Trump sup­port in the Mid­west

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - By David A. Keene

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.

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