State News

Opposing party chairs adopt similar campaign strategies for winning vital state in 2020 election

Wisconsin party chairs discuss grassroots strategies, predict massive increase in online advertising and campaigning geared toward the state leading up to 2020 Presidential election.

Wisconsin party chairs discuss grassroots strategies, predict massive increase in online advertising and campaigning geared toward the state leading up to 2020 Presidential election.

Image By: Alicia Shoberg

“Anyone in the world who wants to affect the 2020 election is going to try to get into the minds of Wisconsin voters,” Wisconsin Democratic Party Chair Ben Wikler said. “Wisconsin is the state most likely to be the tipping point in the electoral college.”

Regardless of their differing political ideologies, Wikler and Wisconsin Republican Party Chair Andrew Hitt hold similar campaign strategies, database manufacturing and views on Wisconsin’s role in the upcoming 2020 presidential election.  

During an interview with WisconsinEye Senior Producer Steve Walters, the state party chairs discussed strikingly comparable “ground game” plans for grassroots campaigning. Wikler and Hitt each spoke of the importance of knocking on doors, person-to-person interactions and valuing personal social media over paid and promoted posts.

“You can run all the ads in the world … but at the end of the day, I think with all the noise out there, what’s really going to cut through is person-to-person interactions,” Hitt said of grassroots campaigning.

Similar plans for canvassing were voiced by the Democratic representative. 

“We’ve been building, on the Democratic side, a neighborhood team-based field operation since the spring of 2017,” Wikler said regarding Trump’s 2016 victory.

Both state party chairs intend to increase their reach by using large databases of voter information to target audiences with persuasive messages.

“As people walk around and do things, they spin off huge clouds of data and information,” Wikler said. “We live in a big data world now.”

Both argue average social media users will play a greater role in producing persuasive communication affecting voters more than ever before, highlighting challenges created by Twitter’s recent announcement it will no longer run political advertisements.

Twitter’s decision came from recent debate over social media platforms’ fact-checking policies and a lack of regulation that websites have in comparison to more traditional news outlets like television. 

Although Twitter’s decision to stop political advertising on its site impedes political campaigning, each party chair noted that more influential social media posts come directly from community leaders and users’ friends and family.

Though the state party chairs admitted their strategies in targeting voters are similar, their ideological messaging, especially regarding agriculture and the ongoing impeachment inquiry, remain opposite of each other.

Wilker believes Trump’s previously favorable margins in northern Wisconsin –– areas north of Highway 10 –– will flip dramatically. He attributes this to Wisconsin’s current reputation as “the farm bankruptcy of the country” with multiple dairy farmers “going under” daily.

Hitt — who grew up working on farms — said Trump’s presidency is not to blame for agricultural industries’ struggles in Wisconsin. Instead, he claims passing the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, a pending trade deal between the neighboring countries, would provide farmers with more trade opportunities than electing a new president.

On the topic of impeachment, Hitt is unconvinced by Democrats’ concern over Trump’s conversation with the Ukrainian president about military aid and opening an investigation into the Bidens.

“It certainly jazzes up our base,” Hitt said of the impeachment inquiry, which he believes is a “manufactured crisis.” While Wikler thinks the ongoing impeachment inquiry could play a significant role in the 2020 election, Hitt thinks “kitchen-table” issues pertaining to voters’ daily lives will massively outweigh discussion revolving around impeachment.

Hitt also claimed that a recent Marquette Law School poll showed voters’ disfavor of the impeachment inquiry, but the poll found that 46 percent of Wisconsin registered voters believe there is enough for Congress to hold hearings about whether Trump should be impeached — a 17-point increase from their previous poll in April.

In response, Wikler called the Democrat-led impeachment inquiry a “fact-finding mission,” investigating how Trump unconstitutionally used his presidential power to improve chances of reelection in 2020.

“This is a president who’s not focused on improving the lives of folks in Wisconsin,” Wikler said. “The swamp has gotten even swampier.”

After Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton neglected to visit the state during her campaign, Wisconsin flipped Republican for the first time since 1984 during the 2016 election. 

Consequently, both sides of the aisle increased their focus on the historically purple state. The Democratic National Convention will be held in Milwaukee in the summer of 2020, just months before the election.

“This is really the epicenter of the 2020 race,” Hitt said. “The road to the White House for the president runs through Wisconsin.”

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