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What Republicans Are Doing To Win Wisconsin In 2020

Maayan Silver
Cardboard cutouts of President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump in a West Allis hotel conference room where Wisconsin conservatives met in November as part of the Conservative Political Education Conference.

It may not seem like it, but the November 2020 elections are fast approaching. Wisconsin is one of several states expected to be key in whether Republican President Donald Trump wins a second term.

Wisconsin Republicans are already mobilizing to ensure that happens. 

Last month, strategist Bill McCoshen addressed about 200 fellow conservatives in a hotel conference room in West Allis. It was the Conservative Political Education Conference.

READ: Why All Eyes Are On Wisconsin Ahead Of The 2020 Elections

Headliners included U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, Congressman Bryan Steil and the former president of the National Rifle Association. The main goals? To reelect President Donald Trump in 2020 and talk strategy.

"Morning everyone! Mornin'. How are you today?" queried McCoshen. After claps and cheers, he continued, "Excellent. This next hour or so is going to be all about strategy and tactics: how we keep Wisconsin red in 2020."

Credit Maayan Silver
Strategist Bill McCoshen speaks to fellow conservatives about what Republicans need to do to win upcoming elections in Wisconsin, including the presidential race.

McCoshen hit the ground running, explaining that half of the votes in Wisconsin come from eight to nine heavily-populated counties. And the GOP needs to target them: "Milwaukee, Dane, Waukesha, Brown, Racine, Outagamie, Winnebago, Washington, and sometimes Kenosha — in 2016, Kenosha was part of that," he explained.

READ: What Democrats Are Doing To Win Wisconsin In 2020

The first group Republicans will chase? Suburban voters. That includes people in the so-called WOW counties — Waukesha, Ozaukee and Washington counties — that are home to many conservatives.

"Ron Johnson got more votes over here than Donald Trump did in 2016," McCoshen said. "Mitt Romney got more votes than Donald Trump did in 2012. So, it's crucial for Republicans to focus on what's considered their backyard, make sure that they're turning out all Republican voters for the president in 2020."

But McCoshen says Republicans also have to go into traditional Democratic territory.

Credit Maayan Silver
Digital strategies are also important to Wisconsin Republicans seeking to reelect President Donald Trump.

"They got to go into Milwaukee County, compete harder for those votes," he said. "You can't get 25, 26% in Milwaukee County as a Republican statewide candidate and win. It's just there's too many votes over there. We have to do a better job of competing there and the same and Dane County."

Republican Party officials say that includes tapping into the black and Latino vote. It's also important to mobilize the base, says south side Milwaukee activist Bob Dohnal.

Dohnal points out sportsmen in Wisconsin. He says out of the state's population of close to 6 million people, there are a sizable amount of gun owners.

"Then you have the vets. You have right to life people," he continues.

Credit Maayan Silver
South side Milwaukee conservative activist Bob Dohnal and former Wisconsin State Sen. Frank Lasee at CPEC. Dohnal was seeking volunteers and asking people to get friends and family on board to support conservative candidates in 2020.

But Dohnal says, in general, people vote with their pocketbooks

"Best thing is get everybody working again," he said. "That's what Trump has done. And he realizes that all of the things that we have to do in this country are based on [if] people have jobs. If you don't have jobs, you don't have a future. If you don't have a future, then you're despondent, and you look and think, 'Well, maybe socialism' — that or some of these other things."

At the Conservative Political Education Conference, Dohnal was recruiting volunteers to help get out the vote. Activists are asking people to put up yard signs, be active on social media and encourage friends to vote for Trump in 2020.

READ: Impeachment Support Fades, Trump Leads Top Democrats In Wisconsin, Poll Shows

Mark Jefferson is head of the Republican Party of Wisconsin. He says some in Wisconsin were skeptical of President Trump in 2016 because people weren't sure he would govern as a Republican. Now, Jefferson says the president has a record to stand on.

"He has passed tax overhaul and tax reform. He has brought on conservative federal judges," Jefferson said. "He has done a lot of things that Republicans are very pleased with."

So, Jefferson says the party is going to try to motivate the GOP base by touting Trump’s more conservative accomplishments. He says the GOP will target independent voters by highlighting the president’s anti-establishment style. And Jefferson says the party isn't forgetting rural voters.

"I think in other parts of Wisconsin and in western parts of Wisconsin, in North Central Wisconsin, I think his independent streak, his respect for the rural way of life and their values, I think, are also going to appeal to people," he says.

Some analysts say Wisconsin is one of the three to four must-win states that could determine the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.

What do you want to know about the 2020 elections and the DNC convention? Submit your questions below.


Maayan is a WUWM news reporter.
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