- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 21, 2016

CLEVELAND — Wisconsin Republicans have captured their state’s governorship and one of its U.S. Senate seats, and now have the speaker of the House — but the big prize, the state’s 10 Electoral College presidential votes, has long eluded them.

With Donald Trump at the top of the ticket, though, they say this is the year that changes.

“In Wisconsin, we turned our blue state red,” Rep. Sean P. Duffy told Republican National Convention delegates this week. “We have won every election except the big one. We can’t stay home now if we’re going to save our country.”

It’s not the first time Wisconsin Republicans have vowed to flip their state from blue to red. But it hasn’t happened since President Reagan won the state in 1984, en route to a 49-state romp.

Republicans, however, managed to win a Senate seat in 2010 by ousting an Democratic incumbent.

Gov. Scott Walker also prevailed in 2010, survived a recall in 2012 and won re-election in 2014.

That has left some Wisconsin Republicans wondering why they can’t win the big race.

Brian Westrate, chairman of the state’s 3rd District Republican Party, estimates that the state has 300,000 voters who turn out only for presidential elections, and most of them vote Democratic.

“I leave it to people smarter than me to draw conclusions about that, but it leads me to think that that voting bloc are people that just are not all that worried about state-level politics,” said Mr. Westrate, whose district makes up the southwestern part of the state. “People are busy — paying their mortgages, raising children, and once every four years just may be enough for some.”

This time, though, Republicans say the appeal Mr. Trump has in Ohio and Pennsylvania should work in Wisconsin and Michigan.

Mr. Trump and fellow Republicans have not been shy about giving the state a prominent place at the convention.

Mr. Walker called for unity behind Mr. Trump, and Mr. Duffy, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan and Sen. Ron Johnson — who is up for re-election in a race that Democrats are expecting to win — also spoke from the stage.

Nancy Bartlett, vice chairwoman of the 2nd District Republican Party, acknowledged that party members are in the “belly of the beast” in the blue-leaning district, which includes Dane County and the state capital of Madison.

But she was confident that grass-roots activists could do the work to turn the state red.

“We have some work to do. We have to [put] back Sen. Ron Johnson, and that was probably going to be our focal point,” she said. “Obviously, we’re also going to be bringing out the troops for Trump.”

“So between the two, it’ll work fine. We are very good at grass roots,” she said.

Democrats retain the upper hand, according to polling — but they are still paying attention to the state, suggesting the race is not a slam-dunk.

The Clinton campaign chose Green Bay as the site for Mrs. Clinton’s first planned rally with President Obama after Mr. Obama endorsed her last month, though the trip was nixed in the wake of the terrorist attack in Orlando, Florida. Their first joint appearance ended up being in North Carolina.

Jim Miller, who chairs the local party in Mr. Duffy’s 7th Congressional District, said people should be careful if they are thinking of writing off Mr. Trump.

“I know from the start that people have underestimated him,” Mr. Miller said. “We still have a lot of time from now until November.”

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