Wisconsin Republicans Might Have Outperformed Trump. But Will It Last?

Donald Trump’s loss in Wisconsin on Tuesday might create the impression that the state GOP is, to borrow a phrase from The Princess Bride, “mostly dead.”

But Trump’s performance obscures the fact that Wisconsin Republican candidates had a strong night, with the GOP picking up two seats in the State Senate and losing only two seats from a bloated majority in the State Assembly despite the fact Democrats more than doubled GOP fundraising efforts. Pre-election polling had suggested the Assembly losses could be much deeper. The final vote leaves Republicans with a 21-12 majority in the Senate and a 61-38 majority in the Assembly. 

Trump lost in part because he saw support fade in the state’s largest GOP-friendly counties. In each one of the three suburban Milwaukee “WOW” counties—Waukesha, Ozaukee, and Washington—Trump’s margin over Biden was smaller than it was over Hillary Clinton in 2016.  Had Trump merely won the WOW counties in 2020 by the same proportions he won them in 2016, he would have narrowly overcome Biden’s final lead of around 20,500 votes. 

In heavily Republican Waukesha County, where 268,000 votes were cast, Trump’s margin of victory shrunk by 5.7 percentage points over 2016—in smaller counties Ozaukee and Washington, that erosion was 6.8 points and 2.1 points, respectively. 

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