Biden aims to strengthen blue wall with Wisconsin swing. Will it be enough?

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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden is taking his economic sales pitch to Wisconsin on Tuesday — a battleground state that could prove decisive in 2024 and exemplifies the struggle the Democrat faces in convincing blue-collar workers to give him their votes.

The once reliably Democratic midwestern state and its 10 electoral votes have become competitive in the last decade.

That’s because white men without a college degree in Wisconsin have become considerably more Republican, says Charles Franklin, director of the Marquette Law School Poll, while the population of college-educated voters in the state has remained mostly unchanged.

The president may be able to marginally improve his performance among a smaller group of blue-collar union workers.

“But those union workers are not your grandfather’s union guys, in terms of partisanship. They’re not dedicated Democrats anymore,” Franklin said. “And the unions really have to work hard to get their members to turn out for Democrats in both state and national elections.”

Biden is officially visiting Milwaukee to promote his jobs and climate agenda a year after signing the Inflation Reduction Act into law. Yet, the trip lands a week before Republicans seeking the presidency will be in the city competing in their first primary debate.

The Democrat who is competing for reelection narrowly defeated Donald Trump in Wisconsin in the last presidential contest, and polling published by Marquette in June showed that independents would back Biden 52%-43% in a rematch against the former Republican president.

Were Biden to face another Republican, though, he could run into trouble. Wisconsin has a Senate seat on the ballot, and both political parties are making an aggressive play for the state. Besides the debate, it is also the location of the Republican National Convention.

Independents were less likely to back Biden, the Marquette survey showed, when he was not in a head-to-head contest with Trump. In a face-off with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, the sitting president had a two-point advantage. But the tally was inside the margin of error.

Democratic strategist Joe Zepecki, who was the Wisconsin communications director for former President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign in 2012, said the state — which has a mostly white population and is not as diverse as battleground such as Arizona and Georgia — is likely to remain a politically-appealing target for Republicans.

Trump beat Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in Wisconsin in 2016 with the help of blue-collar voters after she did not visit the state during the general election.

“The reminder of that, and the prospect of that happening again, sends shivers down the spine of every Democratic operative in the country,” Zepecki said.

The Biden team’s focus on Wisconsin demonstrates the lingering concern, he said. “Whether it’s ever-present, or just a thing they remember once in a while as a fun piece of campaign trivia, they are showing that they are going to be here early and often.”

White House hits Milwaukee twice in August

The day trip to Milwaukee to tour a factory that produces wind turbine generators is his latest push for an agenda the White House had dubbed “Bidenomics” over its emphasis on investments in clean energy and manufacturing and the creation of middle-class jobs. Last week, he visited New Mexico and Arizona, another swing state the Democratic president barely won.

Biden’s trip to Wisconsin is his second this year, as he seeks to get credit with swing voters for his economic policies. He visited a union hall in Madison in February. It was his first stop after he delivered the State of the Union. He also visited Milwaukee last Labor Day.

Vice President Kamala Harris was just in Milwaukee. She visited the city earlier in the month.

In a statement on the proximity of the president’s latest visit to the GOP debate in Milwaukee and so soon after Harris’ stop, Biden’s reelection campaign took aim at Trump.

“Wisconsinites remember when Donald Trump promised 13,000 manufacturing jobs and a new Foxconn plant to their state. They also remember when that never happened. President Biden has succeeded where the former president failed American families, including by helping create nearly 800,000 manufacturing jobs that actually exist throughout the country and more than doubling the construction of new manufacturing plants,” Biden campaign spokesman Kevin Munoz said.

Biden’s spokesman accused Republicans of wanting to ship jobs overseas and cut taxes for wealthy Americans. “Voters in Wisconsin rejected the extreme, divisive MAGA agenda in 2020, and they rejected the MAGA attacks on choice just this year in their Supreme Court election. They will reject it again in 2024,” Munoz said.

Although he outperforms Trump in the state in a 2024 matchup, Biden’s job approval rating was at 45% in Wisconsin in June in Marquette’s survey.

Still, his standing was better than it was last October, when he had a 41% favorability rating in the same poll. The increase was primarialy due to improving sentiment among independents, 36% of whom approved of the job Biden was doing last fall, compared with 46% who said the same thing this summer.

Harris’ visit to Wisconsin to promote broadband internet access and Biden’s trip tout clean energy and healthcare initiatives will only help to reinforce the choice for voters ahead of the GOP debate, Zepecki said.

“And that’s the smartest political move they can make at a time when the president’s numbers are still not great,” the former Obama administration official said. “This helps the contrast, and it helps it for critical voters in an absolutely essential battleground state that both sides want in their column come election night 2024.”

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