- Associated Press - Thursday, June 30, 2016

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Donald Trump has hired U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy’s chief of staff to run his campaign in Wisconsin, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee’s campaign told The Associated Press on Thursday.

The move indicates that Trump will be making a push to win Wisconsin and its 10 electoral votes, a Midwestern industrial state that hasn’t voted Republican since 1984. Wisconsin is expected to be a key target in the expected race between Trump and presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

Trump lost Wisconsin’s April primary by 13 points to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, but won Duffy’s rural congressional district in northern Wisconsin and a similar one in the western part of the state. Duffy, a former contestant on the reality show The Real World in the late 1990s and in 2002, was elected to Congress in 2010.

Pete Meachum has been Duffy’s chief of staff since December 2012 and will join Trump’s effort immediately, the campaign said. Meachum joins Vince Trovato, who had worked for Trump in Wisconsin’s primary, as his two paid staff members in the state. Trump’s campaign says Trovato will focus his work on the state’s delegates to the Republican National Convention.

Wisconsin is sending 42 delegates to the convention, but under state party rules 36 of them are bound to vote for Cruz in the first round of balloting. They can only be released to Trump if Cruz allows it or Cruz fails to get a third of the votes in any round of balloting.

A spokeswoman for Clinton’s campaign in Wisconsin, Gillian Drummond, had no immediate comment on the latest Trump hire.

Clinton has had paid staff in Wisconsin since early May, led by Jacob Hajdu, who previously served as political director and executive director of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. Clinton currently has five paid staff members in her Madison-based office, and more field offices are expected to open in coming weeks.

Clinton had a 9-point advantage over Trump in a Marquette University Law School poll released June 15.

“Staff and volunteers have been on the ground for months talking with voters about Hillary Clinton’s plans to build an economy that works for everyone, not just those at the top,” Democratic Party of Wisconsin spokesman Brandon Weathersby said in an emailed statement. “Donald Trump is a dangerous fraud who is in it for himself and has shown time and again he is unfit to be President of the United States.”

There was a strong anti-Trump push in Wisconsin that helped fuel his defeat in the state’s primary, with influential conservative talk radio hosts in Milwaukee and other major media markets at the forefront. Gov. Scott Walker campaigned heavily for Cruz, and many other Republican officeholders opposed Trump.

While Walker and House Speaker Paul Ryan, of Janesville, have endorsed Trump, both have been critical of some of his remarks in recent weeks. Walker has hedged his endorsement as other Republicans in the state have been slow to publicly embrace Trump.

Duffy was one of only two Republicans who spoke at the Wisconsin Republican Party convention in May to even refer to Trump by name.

“We’re going to continue to make America great again, and we’re going to make America great again with Donald Trump,” Duffy said then.


Follow Scott Bauer on Twitter at https://twitter.com/sbauerAP and find more of his work at https://bigstory.ap.org/content/scott-bauer

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