Evers, Michels and the competition for Wisconsin's blue-collar voters
One path to victory in the race for Wisconsin Governor this year is winning over the most blue collar voters.
So, Democratic incumbent Tony Evers campaigned in West Allis Monday, a mostly blue-collar suburb that went for him over Republican Scott Walker by about four percentage points in the November, 2018 vote for governor.
Evers played the every-person's role by going to Everyone's Ice Cream shop, where he was served a bowl of a vanilla bean custard named Leave It To Evers, and posed for photos.
"Can I get a picture of you enjoying that? How's it taste?," one of the shop employees asked Evers.
"Outstanding," Evers replied.
Reporters then crowded around Evers for a few questions. We asked for his campaign pitch to what many politicians call ''working families."
Evers responded: "We support blue-collar workers, especially union workers. That is, making sure we have as many good union jobs as possible. We have invested in apprenticeships. Put lots of money into roads and other infrastructure that blue-collar workers are working on all the time, frankly, during the pandemic. We made them essential workers right from the get-go. Going forward, we have to address apprenticeships and other things that lead to good-paying, blue-collar, mostly union jobs. That's what we hope to do in the state of Wisconsin."
Republican challenger Tim Michels hasn't been inviting as many reporters to as many events as Evers, since winning the Aug. 9 GOP primary.
But just before that election, Michels spent a day campaigning in eastern Wisconsin. In Fond du Lac, the wealthy construction company owner tried to drive a wedge between Democrats and labor.
"I have people come up to me and say, 'You know, Tim, I work in a union or I voted Democrat my whole life. But I'm frustrated. The Democratic Party has left me. They've moved so far to the left. It's all about LGBTQ or drag queen shows for third graders. I just want to go to work. I just want to raise my family,'" Michels said, without naming who has said those words to him.
UW-Milwaukee Political Science Professor Paru Shah said Wisconsin isn't alone among states that are seeing jockeying for blue-collar middle class votes.
She said Republicans risk losing centrist voters when attacking, as Michels has done, education spending and abortion rights.
"I think if you look at the poll results, you see people actually do want to spend more of our money on education. The polls suggest we do want a legalized abortion," Shah told WUWM.
Shah said the challenge for Democrats is the loss of many private sector unions. "The ability for unions to bring in voters for the Democrats, in particular, has shifted over time, just because of the dismantling of unions across the United States," Shah said.
And Shah said part of the next two months of campaigning will be candidates trying to deal with a double shift of the electorate.
"This kind of movement where we see more white, college-educated voters voting with Democrats. And so, the question becomes where do the middle class, or working class individuals find themselves?" Shah said.
Evers will be back on the campaign trail Tuesday, with news conferences in Milwaukee and two other cities. He's promising to discuss his support for working families and ways to address rising costs.
Michels is slated to speak at a picnic in Wauwatosa on Sunday.