Vice President Mike Pence and Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Kamala Harris are both campaigning in the crucial battleground state of Wisconsin on Labor Day, the traditional kickoff for the fall general election campaign.
While parachuting into the same state, the running mates to President Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden will be far apart – on opposite sides of Wisconsin.
The vice president heads to La Crosse, a city of roughly 50,000 along the Mississippi River in the southwest corner of the state. Pence will deliver a speech on “A Stronger American Workforce” at the electric utility Dairyland Power Cooperative.
Harris is campaigning in Milwaukee, the state’s largest city. The senator from California will tour and meet with labour leaders at and International Brotherhood of Electric Workers training facility, and later will speak with Black business owners in Milwaukee.
WHERE THE RACE FOR BATTLEGROUND WISCONSIN STANDS
Both will be offering different visions of the economy.
“Trump keeps saying the economy is improving—but the truth is, only the wealthiest are reaping the benefits. Meanwhile: →Over 100,000 small businesses have closed their doors for good →Almost 30M people are on unemployment →Too many families are unsure how to pay their rent,” Harris tweeted on the eve of her trip.
Pence is expected to highlight the strength of the economy prior to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic – and the partial recovery this spring and summer.
Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia, who will be joining Pence in La Crosse, tweeted Monday morning that “In July, we added 30,500 jobs in Wisconsin.”
Where they’re visiting says a lot about where they see the state of the race in Wisconsin. Pence will be speaking in a heavily Caucasian part of the state – hoping to convince Democrats who cast ballots for Trump in 2016 to vote Republican again. Harris appears to have a different mission – energize the labour and African American base of the Democratic Party.
Wisconsin, along with Michigan and Pennsylvania, had been carried by the Democrats in presidential elections for a quarter-century and were considered part of the blue wall. But Trump narrowly carried all three states in the 2016 election, helping him capture the White House. Trump topped Clinton by fewer than 28,000 votes in Wisconsin four years ago – and the Democratic nominee was criticized for not visiting the state during the general election.
Neither campaign’s ignoring the state this time around.
The president has stopped in Wisconsin three times this summer, and Biden made his first trip last week. And Monday’s trip will mark Pence’s second visit to the Badger State in the past three weeks.
Last week both Trump and Biden made duelling trips to Kenosha, Wis., a city pushed into the national spotlight after the police shooting of a Black man sparked days of protest and violence – making the city the latest battleground in summer of unrest over police brutality against minorities and racial injustice. There was a stark contrast between the messages of both trips – with the president preaching law and order and the Democratic challenger presenting an optimistic vision in the fight against systemic racism.
Biden spoke on the phone with Jason Blake – and met with his family – during his trip.
Blake was shot seven times in his back on August 23 as he reached into his vehicle, where Wisconsin officials later said a knife was found. Blake’s young children were in his vehicle at the time. The shooting left Blake paralyzed, according to his father. Video of the incident went viral hours later, sparking days of protests and violence.
Harris spoke by phone with Blake and met with his family at the airport in Milwaukee after landing in Wisconsin.
The president toured damaged businesses and met with law enforcement during his visit last week to Kenosha, but didn’t meet with Blake’s family. Trump claimed that he wouldn’t meet with them because they wanted lawyers involved.
The most recent Fox News poll in Wisconsin – conducted a week ago – indicated the former vice president with an 8-point lead over Trump among likely voters. An average of all the most recent public opinion surveys compiled by Real Clear Politics shows a slightly closer contest, with Biden ahead of the president by 4.4 points.
Clinton led Trump by 5.3 points according to Real Clear Politics Average in Wisconsin on this date four years ago. The final average on the eve of the 2016 election indicated Clinton topping Trump by 6.5 points – before Trump slightly edged the Democratic nominee by seven-tenths of a percent.
While Pence has been busy crisscrossing the national campaign trail all summer, Monday is the first in-person campaign trip by Harris since being named Biden’s running mate nearly a month ago.
Harris traveled to Delaware to give her nomination acceptance speech and joined Biden the following night as he gave his address at the conclusion of the Democratic National Convention. And she gave an in-person speech in the nation’s capital. But other than those two moments, Harris has been campaigning exclusively on-line amid the coronavirus pandemic, headlining numerous virtual organizing events and fundraisers.
Asked by reporters Friday why Harris hadn’t been campaigning in-person, Biden noted that both he and his running mate are trying to cover as much territory as possible and noted that “she’s out herself.”
“She is an incredibly competent candidate. She is doing a great job. There will be times when we can get with her, there’s a lot of territories to cover,” Biden emphasized.
Biden, who’s long been a friend to organized labour, heads to Harrisburg, Pa. on Monday to speak with labour leaders. The former vice president will stop at the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO headquarters and join a virtual event with union president Richard Trumka, and take questions from rank-and-file members.
The president has no planned campaign events on Labor Day.