Decision 2020: Trump vs. Biden in Wisconsin

Patrick Mahoney ’23

2016 Presidential Election Results by County. Ali Zifan, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

When Donald Trump won the presidency over Hillary Clinton in November of 2016, many pollsters and political pundits were shocked at the outcome. Clinton had been favored in many national and battleground state polls, and yet she found herself conceding the election the next day. One key reason for this political phenomenon was that many states that had reliably voted blue in recent decades, specifically in the Midwest, swung towards Trump, enabling him to secure the 270 electoral votes needed for the presidency. Four years later, one of these states, Wisconsin, once again finds itself in the midst of a tight and all-important presidential election. As Joe Biden and Donald Trump enter the final week of the presidential election, Wisconsin has entered the national spotlight as a critical swing state.

While all states in the Union have experienced and dealt with the national crises and movements that have rocked the nation in recent weeks, months, and years, Wisconsin has come to be seen as a perfect microcosm for the United States as a whole, and because of this, both the Trump and Biden campaigns have invested heavily towards winning it. Wisconsin, in recent weeks, has experienced a rise in Coronavirus cases, and in the past few months, protests in Kenosha following the Jacob Blake shooting have led to an increased debate over rioting and police brutality within the state. Wisconsin politics have also been mired in debates over the effectiveness and potential issues with mail-in voting and a conservative state supreme court (Witte). Many of these issues, which mirror national politics and concerns, have campaign advisors on both sides eyeing Wisconsin as a potential indicator of how the election might pan out. This focus on Wisconsin is further evidenced by the money that has been poured into Wisconsin by both campaigns. As of mid-October, Biden had spent over $62 million while Trump had spent nearly $39 million on television ads. Between the two campaigns, spending in Wisconsin ranks among the highest in the nation, trailing only states like Florida, Michigan, and Pennsylvania (Montanaro).

In 2016, Trump won Wisconsin by a mere margin of 23,000 votes, or about 0.77% of the total vote. In recent weeks, Biden has held around a 4.6 point lead based on averages from several polls conducted by various news and polling sites. Though this number might indicate that Biden’s lead is relatively safe for the moment, this lead is both smaller than the one Clinton held around the same time period four years prior (+6 points) and where Biden was three weeks ago (+7 points). Trump has looked to take advantage of these narrowing polls and some of the hot issues that have come to the forefront in Wisconsin, holding several rallies in the state within the last several weeks. In these rallies, he has focused heavily on law and order and the economy, two issues his campaign believes are relevant and important to Wisconsin voters. In addition to these issues, Trump has also focused on the economy during his time in the state, spending much of his rallies talking about how a vote for Biden would hurt Wisconsin agriculture and manufacturing. In Wisconsin, polls have indicated that voters trust Trump most with regards to the economy. Biden last visited Wisconsin in late September, signaling that his campaign hopes that issues like Covid will propel Wisconsin voters to vote for him on November 3.

With in-person voting opening in the last week and absentee ballots beginning to be mailed in, the voters of Wisconsin will be in the limelight throughout the next week and especially on November 3, when 10 electoral college votes will be up for grabs. Their decision could decide the presidency.