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Politics & Government

Both Parties Preparing for GOP Presidential Debate in Milwaukee

Haydn Blackey, flickr
The Milwaukee Theatre

The Republican candidates for president will head to Milwaukee in less than a month. The city will be the site of one of their debates.

This week, the Republican National Committee unveiled the details; the event will take place Nov. 10 at the Milwaukee Theatre downtown. The hosts will be Fox Business and the Wall Street Journal. The plans are causing locals to prepare.

The GOP will wade into unfriendly territory in holding its fourth debate in Milwaukee, according to Charles Franklin. He’s director of the Marquette Law School Poll. But, Franklin says the surrounding pool is supportive and will provide a captive audience.

“While Milwaukee city and Milwaukee County are quite Democratic, the surrounding suburbs are very Republican and as a result, you are speaking to a Republican audience in the state and in the vicinity, even if the City of Milwaukee tilts substantially Democratic,” Franklin says.

Franklin thinks the Republican National Committee initially chose Wisconsin as a debate site, when it seemed certain that Gov. Walker would be in the running for the White House. He dropped out of the race in September. Yet Franklin says Milwaukee still offers the big city amenities the organizers need.

Even though Walker will be absent from the stage, Waukesha County Republican Party Director Cathy Waller is thrilled about the proximity of the GOP debate.

“I’ve been fielding at least a dozen or more calls a day from people interested in attending the event and just the fact that it’s so close and accessible to people is a big plus for us,” Waller says.

Waller bets the Milwaukee Theatre will be sold out for the event. So for those who can’t make it, the Waukesha County headquarters plans to set up a giant screen and hold a watch party. She hopes the event will raise Wisconsin’s political profile in 2016, even without a candidate in the race.

“Maybe they’re considering Wisconsin to be in play and there’s an opportunity for us to take the state for Republicans again,” Waller says.

Another person who will be watching closely is Martha Laning, chairman of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. She hopes the location will serve as a reality check for Republicans of the issues facing Milwaukee residents.

“I think it’s great for the Democrats to have a Republican debate coming to Milwaukee. I think it’s great that they’re bringing money to Milwaukee. But also, it’s an opportunity for them to see the reaction that they’re going to get from the people in Milwaukee who are really struggling, struggling under the decisions that the Republicans have made right here in our state,” Laning says.

Laning says her group plans to work with the Democratic National Committee to get their party’s messages out once all the national media arrives in town.

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