Trump rallies in Wisconsin, where Republicans are embattled

Former President Trump will hold a rally in Wisconsin later Friday to boost his approved candidates, a visit that comes as the Republican Party faces challenges in the battlefield state.

Trump will punch for his favorite governor candidate, Tim Michels (R), not long after former Vice President Mike Pence visited Badger State to support former Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch (R) in yet another example of the ongoing power of attorney battle between the couple.

Meanwhile, Senator Ron Johnson (R), a high-profile Trump ally, will be noticeably absent. The senator said in a statement last month that he was canceling the meeting because he did not want to participate in a disputed primary.

The timing of the rally also comes as Johnson faces a competitive Senate reelection bid, most likely against Lt. gov. Mandela Barnes (D).

Republicans remain optimistic that these races will wind their way into November, though some acknowledge the party faces hurdles ahead of next week’s primary — especially with Trump and Pence on either side again.

GOP strategist Bill McCoshen said there is “some nervousness now about how negative the gubernatorial primary has become.”

“There are still five days to go, and people are concerned about whether we can host the party again next Wednesday,” he said.

Several people who spoke to The Hill said it was the first time they had seen a former president and former vice president endorse opposing candidates in a Wisconsin primary.

However, a GOP employee with ties to the state seemed unconvinced that the different approvals signaled a difference in the Republican Party.

“I don’t know if I would attribute the Trump-Pence thing to a divergence in the party. I think the divergence in the Pence and Trump party would be on one side, and then, you know, you have, you… [Rep. Adam] Kinzingers on the other side,” the officer said.

GOP strategist Mark Graul believed the approvals raised no questions about the party’s direction, and said the candidates were focused on touting their own personal bests.

“For most Wisconsin residents, it’s much more about that than some, you know, are-you-with-Trump-or-are-you-with-Pence kind of situation here,” he said.

But some experts believe otherwise.

“I think so, especially about whether the 2020 elections were legitimate or not,” said Barry Burden, a professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the director of the school’s Elections Research Center, when he was asked. asked whether the various approvals raised questions about the direction of the party.

“That is Trump’s hobbyhorse. It seems he selects the kind of people he wants to support,” he said. “Rebecca Kleefisch initially didn’t make statements that were skeptical enough to Trump’s taste about the 2020 election, so he went with someone else. It ended up being Michels.”

Christina Amestoy, a spokesperson for the Democratic Governors Association, said Pence and Trump’s statements of support represented the same Republican party, but she said the different statements of support spoke “to the disorder and division we see” within the GOP.

Yet Trump has drawn his own line in the sand among Republicans he thinks are sympathetic to his false views that the 2020 election has been stolen, and those who have become critics of him or refused to run for the election. to undo.

Earlier this week, Trump approved nominee Adam Steen to face Wisconsin State Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R) in the 63rd Assembly District race, calling Steen an “emerging patriotic candidate” as he turned Vos down as a “RINO” or “Republican in name” only,” after Vos resisted attempts to undo the 2020 election.

Some Republicans suggested Trump’s endorsement of Steen was misleading.

“I think it’s saying that, you know, former President Trump, with all due respect, doesn’t understand what’s been going on in Wisconsin for the past 12 years or so,” Graul said.

“I mean, Speaker Fox has been an integral part, first to implement the conservative reforms that have been made under the governor.” [Scott] Walker, you know, everything from collective bargaining reforms to mapping out, you know, huge tax cuts, that sort of thing.’

Brandon Scholz, a retired Republican strategist, called it “laughable.”

“Robin Vos has done more for Republicans as chairman and in his career in a legislature than many people have done. And Vos has implemented a lot of legislation. The idea of ​​Trump scolding him is just laughable. I mean, it’s one of those things like… it’s just a totally ignorant observation of Wisconsin politics,” he said.

Steen pushed back on Republicans’ assessment of Trump’s approval.

“So I believe they have absolutely no idea what they’re talking about,” he told The Hill when asked about Republican disagreements with Trump’s approval of him.

“So my opponent, as I’ve said several times, is not that conservative, but he doesn’t follow the party platform either. The party platform is very clear about life. It’s very clear in the Constitution. And he just ignores what the Constitution says, and I believe it’s time for conservatives to actually stand up and follow the Constitution and tell the left to sue us if they want to violate the Constitution,” he added up.

Some believe Fox will prevail, but Trump’s endorsement still sends a signal that the former president isn’t afraid to go after what he sees as his political opponents.

Meanwhile, Johnson is preparing himself for one of November’s competitive Senate races, which Cook Political Report considers a toss-up.

Polls in June by Marquette Law School suggested Johnson was in for an exciting race against several challengers, including Barnes. The poll, conducted between June 14 and June 20, showed that Barnes received 46 percent in a hypothetical matchup with Johnson compared to the senator’s 44 percent, numbers that were within the margin of error.

“Ron Johnson is not a politician, and that’s something that voters in Wisconsin really appreciate, he’s someone who will make it clear to them and he’s not going to play politics. Mandela Barnes has been a career political activist,” Ben Voelkel, a Johnson campaign spokesman, said of the senator.

A spokesperson for the Senate Republicans’ campaign branch claimed that Barnes “hasn’t done much to help the struggles facing families” and said Johnson “has proven himself in Washington as someone who always fights for the state. “

But Johnson has been embroiled in several controversies, including his name checked by the House select committee investigating the January 6, 2021 Capitol riot over his office’s alleged involvement in a bogus electoral scheme.

Johnson, who has denied any allegation, said in a June interview that Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) was the original source for an alternate voter list to be delivered to Pence. Kelly has denied any personal involvement.

More recently, Johnson suggested that Medicare and Social Security should be approved annually, angering Democrats who believed Johnson wanted those programs to be discontinued.

“My chief of staff contacted the vice president’s staff and said, ‘Do you want this?’ They said ‘no’ and we didn’t deliver it, and that’s the end of the story,” Johnson told reporters after the commission’s revelations.

A Democratic source familiar with Senate racing called Johnson’s comments about Medicare and Social Security “deeply out of step with the entire state.”

Wisconsinites will have to make a clear choice in this election between Mandela Barnes… a product of a working family, has championed working Wisconsinites all his life, fought to help and provide for all Wisconsinites no matter where they live, no matter where they live. no matter which zip code. To Ron Johnson, who went to DC,” the source said. “He has changed, he has no contact now.”

Graul argued that voters were more concerned about the economy and inflation than the Jan. 6 commission’s inquiry, claiming Johnson’s comments related to the fiscal challenges the country faces.

“You know, some of the positions he’s taken might be troubling to Republicans,” Burden said. “Yet he is probably the most unifying Republican figure in the state. There really is no one else who has such unanimous support from Republican activists.”

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