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"He Won't Have Hillary Clinton Sitting in Her Hands": Trump is a Tough Battle to Hold Wisconsin

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Pro-Trump Campaign Buttons. Wisconsin Republican suburban voters are likely to determine the president's fate in the state. | (AP Photo / Sara Burnett)

The 2020 election

The Republican suburbs of Milwaukee have never warmed to the president. This can be a big problem.

Hate Donald Trump's Tweets. They are worried about his temperament. They are still uncomfortable with the name calling.

But many voters in Republican suburbs of Milwaukee love his appointments to court. And they approve of his management of the economy.

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How these constituency voters square these sentiments is likely to determine the fate of the Wisconsin president, according to interviews with more than two dozen organizers, operatives and party leaders on both sides in a state that proved decisive for Trump's upset victory in 2016.

Few expect the three key counties that surround the state's largest city to vote Democratic next year. But they say the level of enthusiasm for Trump in the so-called WOW counties of Wisconsin – Vukesha, Ozuki and Washington – is of great importance in a state where three of the last five presidential elections have been decided by less than one percent.

In the political equation of the state, they serve as a conservative counterweight to the large democratic boundaries traditionally provided by Milwaukee and Madison. Unless this GOP suburban engine leads to its own victory for Trump next year, it will be difficult for him to seize the state a second time.

"For the President to win Wisconsin again, he will not have a free ride. for the last time. There will be no Hillary Clinton to sit on her hands, "said Brandon Scholz, a former executive of the Wisconsin Republican Party." He will have a fully committed opposition party on earth. "

Clinton has certainly never made it to Wisconsin, where she is considered. that her unsuccessful campaign cost her a state that has not voted Republican for president since 1984 – fewer than 23,000 votes ultimately decided the contest.

Democrats are determined not to make this tactical mistake again. The National Party has emphatically placed its nomination convention through next summer in Milwaukee – where a 19 percent decline in African-American activity doomed Clinton's chances in 2016.

A local party is trying to spread Clinton's anemic results in WOW counties by tapping into a vein of anti-Trump sentiment according to them it is palpable. Democrats had on-site teams organized for months in the suburbs.

"I know that if we get 40 percent, we almost guarantee a Democrat victory across the country," said Waukesha County Democratic Party Chairman Matt Low. "We see so many volunteers every day that I don't think 40 percent is a total pipeline."

Democratic optimism is partly fueled by Trump's 2016 achievement in WOW counties, where he is behind the Mitt Romney 2012 pace . The Republicans there have not been completely warmed by the president by then.

"It's not like the Republican Party is drying up in WOW counties, it wasn't particularly excited about Trump, and they showed it by voting for him," says Charles Franklin, director of the Law School Market Survey. "Trump is still struggling to get more than 40 percent approval, even in WOW cities. The question is really whether Republicans have come back to him here. "

Democratic hopes are also dashed by last year's overthrow of Gov. Scott Walker's government and the democratic relocation of any state office – a humiliating defeat to what was once one of the strongest state parties in the country.

The debauchery was emblematic of the political chaos unleashed by the Trump era, which hastened the end of Walker's one-time triumph of Wisconsin GP power, former House Speaker Paul Ryan and former Republican National Committee chairman.

Other Old Guard pillars also consider leaving the scene well: Suburban Milwaukee reporter Jim Sensenbrenner, the second longest serving congressman in the nation and an early skeptic of Trump, announced he would not run in early September. reelection. At the local level, activists and county presidents, including in Wukses County, are also retiring.

Aaron Perry, alderman of Wakesh, said he was tired of Trump and accompanied the GOP policies that he switched party membership from Republican to Democratic in June.

"There is a time when everyone has a threshold for how much they can take," Perry said. "Now we get to the point that there is no way to win supporters. Trump's only way to go is down. ”

Wisconsin GOP leaders acknowledge the threat of suburban unrest. As they work to correct the party divisions, they are confident that the left of the Democratic field will be enough to unite the suburban Republicans behind the president.

"It's still going," says Walkes County Executive Paul Farrow, a longtime Republican, "but I think the world of 'Never are shivers' and Trump's supporters realize that they probably have more in common than they have in the past. There will be some anger, there will be doubts. But I always tell people, "never say never," because you never know what the future will be. "

GOP strategist Brian Faye said he was already seeing" less sniping "on the ground. And he says Republicans who can step away from Twitter's Twitter habits are slowly convincing themselves to hold their noses in favor of his position on abortion, weapons, immigration and court appointments.

"They don't like Twitter, they're upset with the tariffs, but they're scared for Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders or Pete Butigig," said Feihai, himself a former trumpeter. " Nothing brings together a diverse group of people as a common adversary. "

The Trump campaign, which says it has invested heavily in staff in Wisconsin and in its data program, disputes internal tracking data in WOW counties showing a healthy level of support. the campaign has been Trump's net benefit to the economy a +17.8 in Ozauki County, +22.9 in Washington and +34.9 in Walkes.

Local Republicans say they are seeing signs of Trump's growing enthusiasm for county fairs and more large crowds of local organizing events.

"I hear fewer and fewer people complain about Tweets. People want Trump signs in the yard now. Everyone is trying to touch everything that Trump is and you are sold out before your day is over, "said Katie Kernan, president of the 5th GOP Congress. "I believe the president has really won a lot of these people."

The animation of these Republican voters is the fear that Democrats will take the state and the country even further to the left.

"I think people are afraid of socialism. In my circle of friends, they know what a socialist state looks like and they don't want it, "said Kernan. "This is one thing for President Trump, this man really loves this country and there is no doubt that he loves this country."

But a heightened level of Democratic enthusiasm across the state means that every suburban GOP skeptic Trump fails to convert is another vote, that his campaign may have to wrest from rural Wisconsin – and it's not entirely clear how much more he can to increase the result there.

While Trump won 63 percent of rural votes in 2016, this support could change if an economic downturn affects the already uncertain agricultural sector that has become impatient with its trade war.

Brian Rissinger, a GOP strategist and longtime Walker adviser, predicts that Trump will easily transfer rural Wisconsin, saying it is the state's Republican power district for several of the most recent election cycles.

"Farmers and others support what the president is doing by making it difficult for China," Reisinger said. "They trust the president to stick it in China the way no one had in the past."

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