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What Democrats Are Doing To Win Wisconsin In 2020

Maayan Silver
The Democratic Party of Waukesha was part of an effort to knock on 50,000 doors around the state of Wisconsin in October. That's over twice President Donald Trump's margin of victory in the state.

Republicans are trying to ensure that Wisconsin reelects President Donald Trump in 2020. Meanwhile, Wisconsin Democrats are gearing up to support the person who wins the Democratic Party's nomination, and one of their strategies is getting out to knock on doors and listen to residents.

Scott Trindl, who lives in Waukesha, is canvasser for the Wisconsin Democratic Party. He's reaching out to voters to learn where they stand on issues in hopes that some can be persuaded to vote for the Democratic nominee in 2020.

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

We met with Trindl while he canvassing in historically Republican Waukesha County. He pulled out a map as he arrived at one address on his list.

"We have turf cut just for the city of Waukesha today that we're doing, of about 900 doors," he says. "So, I don't think we'll get through all of them today, but we'll get through a lot of them." 

Credit Maayan Silver
Scott Trindl knocks on doors in downtown Waukesha as part of a Democratic Party of Wisconsin canvassing effort.

Trindl was part of Wisconsin Democrats' effort to hit tens of thousands of addresses around the state in one weekend. Democratic leaders like Gov. Tony Evers and Attorney General Josh Kaul attended.

They exceeded their goal of knocking on 50,000 doors. That's about twice Donald Trump's margin of victory in 2016.

READ: What Republicans Are Doing To Win Wisconsin In 2020

While Trindl is now acting as an ambassador for the Democratic Party, he wasn't always a fan. 

"I hate to say this, but in 1976 I worked for the Reagan campaign for a while," he says. "And I was a Reform Party member with Ross Perot in the '90s. So, I never voted for a Clinton until 2016 with Hillary."

Credit Maayan Silver
Attorney General Josh Kaul speaks with Democrats at the canvassing event starting at the Waukesha County Democratic Party Headquarters.

But health care changed all that. Trindl says he had work-based health insurance all his life with no major health issues. Yet, when he retired early, he developed heart problems.

"A couple weeks later, after I got out of the hospital with new stents and everything, I got a letter from my insurance company, how nice of them: 'One month from today, you will no longer have health insurance,' " he says. "Wonderful. Now, I have a preexisting condition, no health insurance, and nobody else will give it to me because it's a preexisting condition."

Credit Maayan Silver
Democratic canvasser Scott Trindl in his car before he heads out to knock on doors in Waukesha County. He wasn't always a Democrat. It wasn't until he had

Trindl says he was saved the Affordable Care Act. The law, championed by Democratic President Barack Obama, made it illegal to deny insurance to someone with preexisting conditions.

Trindl is exactly the type of person that the Democrats are seeking in their push to turn Wisconsin blue again. Ben Wikler, chair of the state Democratic Party, says voters can relate to Trindl's story about access to health care.

"That's going to be an explosive issue in this election," says Wikler. "And I think it's not in the headlines. It's not getting news on the national stage. But it's something people notice every day in their own lives when they fill a prescription. They just can't afford it."

In addition to health care, Wikler says canvassers are hearing voters' concerns about the environment, trade policy, roads, and gun violence prevention. As for the impeachment saga that's dominating headlines, Wikler says it's interesting to people but not at the core of the political battle at this point. 

Wikler says one-on-one outreach from canvassers like Trindl is resonating with voters.

"What we're finding is that the most effective messengers are the most familiar messengers. That's the basis for the neighborhood team field program. That's the basis for relational organizing," he says.

"That's the way that we cut through the noise in a moment when constituents will be pounded with ads with videos popping up on social media, every time they turn on a TV. People to people contact is really the thing that you can't buy. It's the thing that you have to organize. And it's the thing that makes the biggest difference."

Credit Maayan Silver
Supporters of the Waukesha County Democratic Party gather before heading out on a canvassing effort.

So, what's different now than in 2016 when Democrats narrowly lost Wisconsin? For the last presidential race, Wikler says Democrats waited until the fall of 2016 to start organizing. 

Now, he says the party is tapping into neighborhood teams that have been organized since the spring of 2017 — teams that helped elect a Democratic governor in the process.

Trindl, the canvasser, says he's seen another change: the political make-up of Waukesha County. He canvassed Waukesha in 2016 and he estimates the county was about 80% Republican at the time. But he says things were different when he canvassed in 2018 for the midterms.

"Those are no longer anywhere near 80-20," Trindl says. "There's a lot of Democratic Party supporters in there now. A lot of young families where public schools are important to them. Public schools were hurt by what happened under the Republicans."

Both parties will be working hard for the next 11 months trying to capture the Wisconsin vote. Analysts say Wisconsin is one of several states that are key to the path to the White House.

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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