Wisconsin Republicans seek rebound, Democrats stay offensive as 2024 fights loom

MADISON, Wis. (AP) – Republicans in Wisconsin still reeling from an April election that saw conservatives lose majority control of the state’s Supreme Court for the first time in 15 years hope to use their next convention to State to unify and refocus on the 2024 presidential race in which Wisconsin will once again be a battleground.

Democrats, acknowledging that four of the last six presidential elections in the state were decided by less than a percentage point, are trying not to get overly confident about recent gains. They gather for their annual state convention beginning June 10 in Green Bay.

“The wind is at our backs, but in Wisconsin, no one should ever take anything for granted,” said state Democratic Party Chairman Ben Wikler. “I haven’t met a single Democrat who thinks we can rest easy.”

Democratic candidates, including Governor Tony Evers and President Joe Biden, have won 14 of the last 17 statewide elections. In April, the 11-point victory of Democratic-backed Supreme Court nominee Janet Protasiewicz over the GOP-backed nominee once again proved the power of abortion as an issue for Democrats. . She ran for abortion rights and for revisiting Republican-drawn maps of political districts, in a race that broke turnout records.

Democratic U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin, who won her 2018 race by 11 points, is up for re-election next year and has yet to attract a Republican opponent. Republicans are already expressing concerns about the lack of an announced top challenger and the possibility of another costly and divisive primary like this year’s Supreme Court contest.

Wisconsin has long been one of the few battleground states, one of the few places where either side can win a statewide contest.

With that in mind, Milwaukee will host the first Republican presidential primary debate in August. The Republicans will return next summer for their national convention. The Democrats, in another nod to the importance of the Midwest, will meet just across the border in Chicago for their national convention in 2024.

Wisconsin Republican Party leaders are trying to get the base to refocus on the fights ahead, while recent losses and divisions within the party among conservatives loyal to former President Donald Trump pose challenges.

“I’m not coming to put lipstick on the corpse,” said Wisconsin Republican Party Chairman Brian Schimming, who took office in December. “We have a winning philosophy here. And that requires doing a lot of things. But we do. We have proven that we can do them.

The theme for the state’s Republican convention this month, “Red to the Roots,” speaks directly to the priority of connecting with its grassroots activists, some of whom broke with Trump-era party leaders. .

“We can win when we are united,” Schimming said. “We can win when we are focused and focused on the base.”

Wisconsin Republicans are divided between a group that is ‘hacked’ and ‘all-in on Trump’ and a growing segment that wants to move on, said Rohn Bishop, the Republican mayor of Waupun and former county GOP chairman. from Fond du Lac.

“If we go the Trump revenue route, we’re doomed,” said Bishop, one of the most vocal Republicans against Trump’s lies that the 2020 election was stolen.

“If the Republicans pull themselves together, Wisconsin can be very close,” Bishop said.

Brian Westrate, a longtime GOP activist from western Wisconsin, said Republicans were frustrated but also optimistic about their chances in 2024.

He compares the current position of Republicans to that of 2009, when Democrats had majority control of the Legislative Assembly, the governor’s office, US Senate seats and a majority of House seats. In 2010, that turned around with Republicans winning the governor’s office, a Senate seat, and majority control of the Legislative Assembly.

Schimming puts it bluntly: “The only thing that gets people more focused than winning is losing.”

Republicans say recent high-profile losses, including Trump’s 2022 defeat, overshadow other gains they have made. These include re-electing U.S. Senator Ron Johnson last year, securing a seat in Congress, and boosting majorities in the Senate and State Assembly just ahead of an anti-veto supermajority under maps they drew in 2010 and 2020 that are recognized as some of the most gerrymandered in the country. Republicans also now hold six of the state’s eight congressional seats.

Schimming said he was trying to remind party loyalists with another high-stakes presidential election looming that “things change quickly.”

“People are more united than maybe a lot of people would expect after the Supreme Court case,” Schimming said. “The level of excitement is quite high for our people.”

Still, Republicans have struggled to deal with abortion after the U.S. Supreme Court last year overturned Roe v. Wade. This culminated in a state ban on abortion in 1849, enacted before women had the right to vote, which came back into effect in Wisconsin. A lawsuit to strike down the law could be decided by the new liberal-controlled Wisconsin Supreme Court before the 2024 election.

Christy Welch is one of several Wisconsin Democrats who decided to get more involved in politics after Roe’s overthrow. She quit her job last year “to try to influence what happens with politics” and now chairs the Brown County Democratic Party, which will host the state convention.

In addition to abortion, Democrats also hope the Wisconsin Supreme Court will redefine the boundaries of legislative and congressional districts, another issue that played a significant role in Protasiewicz’s victory.

“Obviously people were very excited and it’s really good to be able to build on the momentum and the wins,” Welch said.

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