Purple Wisconsin: Presidential candidates to focus on Wisconsin to win White House

Political expert Joe Heim expects Wisconsin to once again be the center of election attention leading up to November
Campaign 2020

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – A lot of eyes are on Wisconsin because its electoral votes hold a lot of weight. Wisconsin was one of a handful of states that helped decide the 2016 election. One La Crosse political expert said candidates at the presidential and local level will work hard to get every Wisconsinite’s vote this November.

In the race for president, the popular vote is irrelevant when deciding who will fill the oval office. The race to win 270 out of 538 electoral votes is all that matters.

“You have 50 contests in 50 different states,” said Joe Heim, a political expert and former political science professor at UW-La Crosse.

Most states have predictable voting outcomes. Voting populations in those states typically vote Democrat (blue) or Republican (red). Wisconsin is a purple state.

“For governor, for example, we had democrat Gov. (Jim) Doyle for two terms then we had Gov. Scott Walker for two terms,” Heim said.

Voters elected Gov. Tony Evers in 2018 which shows elections can flip in the state from year to year. La Crosse County typically votes Democratic, but there’s a reason politicians visit this town of 50,000.

“They clearly recognize the importance of winning the state of Wisconsin in an Electoral College victory,” Heim said.

Hillary Clinton did not campaign in Wisconsin during the general election in 2016. She lost by less than a percentage point in Wisconsin.

“I mean it’s become a trademark type joke for the state,” Heim said.

The 3rd Congressional District, which includes most of the WKBT-TV viewing area, tells more of the purple story.

“The city of La Crosse is more democratic,” Heim said. “The suburbs and the rural areas are more republican, so the county itself very contestable.”

There’s more swing state evidence from the 2016 presidential election. Plus voters in the 3rd Congressional will often vote for a candidate from a different party in local races. That’s called split-ticket voting.

“The 3rd Congressional District voted for Donald Trump … but we also voted for Tony Evers two years ago,” Heim said.

Ballotpedia.org lists Buffalo, Trempealeau, Jackson, Vernon, and Crawford as pivot counties. The 3rd Congressional voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012.

And whether a person is a fan or not, that’s why people who live in western Wisconsin tend to see more political ads. Another reason is WKBT broadcasts in three different states.

“That’s particularly valuable in a campaign,” Heim said.

The closer Nov. 3 gets, the more the attention will intensify in Wisconsin.

On another note, mail-in voting is a controversial topic in many states. In May, the state Elections Commission, made up of equal members of Democrats and Republicans, voted unanimously to send out mail-in ballot applications to all registered voters. Heim said that means both parties in the state are confident they can receives votes by mail.