Cheese. Beer. Green Bay Football. The Badger State has a lot to offer America outside of politics. But on Tuesday, there’s a chance that Wisconsin could end up delivering decisive electoral votes and installing either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump in the White House.
For much of this campaign Wisconsin has been thought of as easily in the Democrats’ pocket — you’d have to go all the way back to Ronald Reagan’s second campaign in 1984 to find the last time the state went for the GOP — but as polls have tightened towards the end of the race, Wisconsin seems to have become competitive, most recently in the wake of FBI Director James Comey’s announcement that the bureau was looking into more emails concerning Clinton.
Currently, though, the numbers still favor Clinton: as of Nov. 4 RealClearPolitics’ polling average giving the former secretary of state a 5.5 point lead over Trump; FiveThirtyEight forecasted Clinton’s chances of taking the state at nearly 80 percent. More interestingly, though, is that FiveThirtyEight gives Wisconsin a 5 percent chance of being the “Tipping Point” state and pushing either candidate over the top. While it’s unlikely, in the event of a close race, Wisconsin’s role in the selection of our next president could prove to be pivotal.
Even outside of the presidential race, Wisconsin will be crucial for who controls the Senate next term. Incumbent Republican Sen. Ron Johnson is fighting to defend his seat from a challenge by the same man who he unseated six years ago, former Sen. Russ Feingold. Though Feingold has held a lead for much of the campaign, the polls have narrowed in the closing days of the race, with Johnson coming to within three points of Feingold in the RealClearPolitics average at the time of writing. Still, Johnson hasn’t led in a live-caller poll since the beginning of October, and FiveThirtyEight confidently predicts that Feingold has a nearly 90 percent chance of winning his old seat back.
Trump’s late play for the state has raised the question of exactly how strong Clinton’s firewall is — a firewall that Wisconsin is definitely a piece of. But Trump, who got thrashed by Ted Cruz during the Republican Primary, is far from popular in the state, and faces problems energizing Republicans.
Top things to look for Tuesday night will include turnout among African American voters in the Milwaukee area, as well as the millennial vote in places like Milwaukee and the liberal university city of Madison. Similarly, Trump has been underperforming in the white Republican suburbs of Milwaukee, so unless he can generate enthusiasm there, his Cheese Hat hopes might crumble.