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“There was … a lot ….

“There was … a lot of concern about some of the policy directions that the Democrats, if they were given unfettered control, might move in,” he said. “I think that caused some people to vote Republican who otherwise might not have done so. This idea of defunding the police, this kind of thing.”

In southwestern Wisconsin’s Crawford County, Democratic county chair Dale Klemme also thought concern about the nation’s prospects under a Biden administration, combined with fears about law enforcement and an overall leftward shift, factored into the historically blue county’s support for Trump. In 2016, 49.6 percent of Crawford County voters backed President Trump, and 53.1 percent of voters supported him in 2020.

“I think the Republicans were successful in putting a socialist label on Biden,” he said. ”You had the Black Lives Matter issue. I think it was a misrepresentation, suggesting that Biden was not a law-and-order person.”

But Klemme found the continued support for Trump confusing.

“The first time it was somewhat understandable, because Trump was an unknown, and he was suggesting that he was going to be an outsider who’s going to drain the swamp,” he said. “Now I drive down the road, I see these banners and it says ‘Trump 2020, No More Bullshit.’ Then that’s all we have for four years.”

Klemme’s Republican counterpart, David Wesener, chalked Trump’s Crawford County success up to the campaign’s early and sustained focus on the region. He noted that Lydia Holt, the Trump campaign liaison, had been tasked with increasing the number of Trump voters in the area, and said her dedication had contributed to the campaign’s success in Crawford County.

“The Trump campaign, in particular, decided that they had to have a presence,” he said. “[Holt] was able to do that. She hustled and she just was a go-getter. We had a presence in Crawford County. And I think that made all the difference.”

But he didn’t think Trump’s second win indicated a rightward swing in the county, referencing U.S. Rep. Ron Kind’s re-election and the relatively strong campaign of Democrat Josefine Jaynes in the 96th Assembly District against incumbent Rep. Loren Oldenburg, R-Viroqua. Jaynes took 43.7 percent of the vote overall, capturing 47 percent of the vote in Crawford County specifically.

“I think that she’s got a future,” Wesener said. ”But I think that with the people in Crawford County, they just weren’t ready to go with an 18-year-old person yet.”

Adams County Democratic Chair Gregory Kobs said his party’s voter-turnout efforts had been very successful. But, he added, it seemed that “we got as many Republicans out as we got Democrats,” he said. Though the Adams Democrats had been primarily focused on turnout among young people specifically, who are more likely to vote blue, he remembered that the same-day voter registration table at his polling place had been crowded with voters that spanned a wide age range.

Kobs said this could account for the president’s even stronger showing this election as opposed to four years ago, not to mention the difficult night for Democratic candidates up and down the ballot. In Adams County, the GOP took 62.3 percent of presidential votes, compared with 58.9 percent four years ago.

“Of course, it’s right that everybody votes and, and I agree with that,” Kobs said. “But we did hurt ourselves in both the Senate and Assembly here.”

Asked whether the second showing of support for the Republican candidate pointed to a rightward turn in Adams County, Kobs said he thought it was mostly due to enthusiasm specifically for Trump.

“I think people were crazy about Trump,” he said. “They couldn’t name a thing that he’s done for them, but they’re just nuts about him.”

Adams County Republican Party Chair Pete Church attributed some of the sustained excitement around Trump to his image as a president for working people.

“We’re not a very well-off county, and the idea of a president that was creating jobs really resonates with people,” Church said.

Church also thought that distaste for contemporary Democratic policy also factored into Adams’ second showing for Trump.

Most of the county chairs attributed the outcome in the state as a whole to high turnout in relatively urban areas. Looking ahead to future elections, Church predicted further political polarization between those urban centers and the state’s rural areas.

“I think you’re going to continue to see conservativeminded people leaving Dane and Milwaukee County, and coming to counties like Adams, because they’re among like-minded people,” he said.

It’s too early to predict how this election will influence the 2024 presidential contest in Wisconsin, but what happens under the Biden administration will likely be a determining factor — and control of the U.S. Senate is key to that.

Given the state of the down-ballot election results, Sawyer County Democrat Louise Ladenthin wasn’t sure how much would actually change.

“I don’t think that just having Biden there is going to make a difference,” she said. “He’s still going to be hogtied.”

The Capitol Report is written by editorial staff at WisPolitics. com, a nonpartisan, Madison-based news service that specializes in coverage of government and politics, and is distributed for publication by members of the Wisconsin Newspaper Association.

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