At the end of August, two things were presumed to be certain: Wisconsin would be the tipping point state in 2020 and President Trump’s “law and order” mantra would help him become more competitive against Joe Biden. The burned-out cars in Kenosha, coming just as the Republicans opened their national convention, seemed to harden the conventional wisdom into stone.
Two weeks later, neither seem quite so sturdy. Five-Thirty-Eight’s prediction model gives Biden a 76% chance of winning – higher than it was on August 31 (and slightly higher than the odds given Hillary Clinton on Election Day morning). While the race has seen tightening in Pennsylvania and in Florida, Biden has widened his lead in Arizona and steadied himself in Michigan (where he leads) and North Carolina (which is basically tied).
Then there’s Wisconsin: where Kenosha is not just a symbol, but a suburb. They saw Biden and Trump’s reactions to police brutality, to peaceful protests, and to nonsensical violence in their own home state …
… and whether you look at it from 538 or from Real Clear Politics, Trump has lost ground to Biden in Wisconsin since Kenosha. In fact, RCP presently has Wisconsin as Biden’s best swing state, while 538 has Biden doing better only in neighboring Michigan.
So what happened?
Well, just as Wisconsin voters were forced to pay close attention to such things, they heard only one candidate condemn political violence from left and from right – Biden (USA Today ). By contrast, Trump declared paintball guns to be “peaceful” (The Oregonian ). They also saw both men come to Kenosha.
If Trump were truly scoring points on the “law and order” theme, Wisconsin would be the first place to see progress. We’re not seeing that now. This implies that Trump will face further failures to win over voters nationwide as they become as informed as Wisconsinites are about this.
With seven weeks to go until Election Day, Wisconsin is showing us that “Trump’s best issue” is doing nothing to close the gap with Biden.