MADISON (WKOW) — Vice President Mike Pence and Democratic V.P. nominee Senator Kamala Harris (D – California) will spend Labor Day campaigning in Wisconsin.
Pence will speak at the Dairyland Power Cooperative in La Crosse Monday morning, making his case to supporters that the Trump administration has succeeded in growing the economy prior to COVID-19 hitting the United States and then steering the country through the worst of the pandemic.
Harris, meanwhile, will visit Milwaukee, touring the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers training facility Monday afternoon before attending a roundtable with Black business owners.
“It’s just a recognition from both campaigns that Wisconsin is ground zero in 2020,” said Mike Wagner, a political communications professor at UW-Madison. “Both campaigns know that this is an absolutely critical state for them to win.”
Wagner said campaigns have two goals for such campaign stops; sparking enthusiasm among supporters and appealing to any likely voters who might remain undecided. Given Pence’s stop in western Wisconsin and Harris coming to Milwaukee, Wagner agreed Monday’s visits are more likely geared toward the former objective.
“I think it is the case that these visits are more turnout visits,” Wagner said. “Trying to excite voters who are certainly for Biden and Harris in the Milwaukee and there are more folks who might be for Trump and Pence in the La Crosse area.”
The vice presidential candidate visits come after a week that saw President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, both traveled to Kenosha after a police officer there shot Jacob Blake in the back seven times as Blake tried to avoid arrest.
The incident led to widespread protests, some of which devolved into riots, continuing a summer that has seen nationwide unrest over police use of force and racial inequalities in the American criminal justice system.
Wagner said the visits highlighted the candidates’ differing approaches to the question of appealing to bases who shout slogans of “back the blue” and “defund the police” or reach out to a moderate middle that isn’t entirely comfortable with either attitude.
“Part of (visiting Kenosha is) rhetoric and part of it is policy proposals. On the rhetoric side, President Trump is behaving in a way to excite the base, tweeting in all caps about law and order,” Wagner said. “Whereas Vice President Biden’s rhetoric is much more in the middle, saying he doesn’t want to defund the police, but in fact increase funding to community police, also wants to be mindful of the long history of systemic racism in the history of the country.”
New Poll Shows Biden Up Six
The vice presidential campaign stops will come a day after a new CBS News/YouGov poll showed Biden with a six-point edge over Trump, 50 percent to 44 percent among likely Wisconsin voters. Biden also had a six-point advantage in approval rating of how they’ve handled the recent protests and unrest, with Biden at a 51 percent approval rating and Trump at 45 percent.
Of course, Hillary Clinton also had a lead over Trump in polls throughout much of the 2016 campaign. In fact, Clinton had a six-point lead in the final Marquette Law School poll before the 2016 election. However, Wagner said Biden’s edge in 2020 polls has been more consistent than Clinton’s.
“I think Biden has had a steadier lead that hasn’t vacillated as much as polling, both in our state and nationally than Clinton did in 2016,” he said.
Wagner added voters are more likely to have enthusiasm to vote when they see polls indicating a tight race. He pointed to a recent paper he co-authored that found voters were not only more likely to have greater enthusiasm if polls showed a close race, they were also more likely to see the polling as something that would inspire their side more than their opponent’s.
“When people see coverage of a really tight race, they become very excited to vote and they think their side is going to be the side that turns out to vote more than the other side,” Wagner said.
Wagner added he estimates between five to 10 percent of the electorate is still on fence, either in terms of which candidate they support or whether they want to actually vote at all.
“There are people who are persuadable and then there are other people who are deciding whether it’s worth their time to show up,” Wagner said. “They know who they would vote for but they’re trying to decide if they think it would make a difference, both in terms of who wins and terms of what happens after that person might get elected.”