Conservative Groups Target Trump-Leaning Voters Who Didn’t Vote in 2016
With less than one week until Election Day, conservative groups are activating Trump-leaning voters in key battlegrounds who didn’t vote for him in 2016, including erstwhile “Never Trumpers,” hunters, and religious voters.
One Waukesha County Republican Party official said efforts in Wisconsin’s Republican-leaning suburbs seek to “squeeze those voters who didn’t support President Trump in 2016, to get them out to vote in 2020.” Many are “Never Trump” voters in the Milwaukee counties, where Republican Gov. Ron Johnson outperformed Trump on the ballot.
Trump barely scraped a win in Wisconsin in 2016, a state former President Barack Obama won in 2012 by 6.9 percentage points.
The president struggled with Republican-leaning voters in many counties in a state where, in 2016, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz won the Republican primary.
“Democrats have conceded these voters,” this source said, adding that while liberal groups have sought to get the vote out via text messages, social media, mailers, and ads, traditional door-knocking efforts have fallen by the wayside.
“They have given up entirely on doors, they have done zero doors. It’s like a big gift,” this person said. “I love it, but I can’t believe it.”
American Majority’s National Executive Director Matt Batzel said that many conservative-leaning voters in Wisconsin, Virginia, and Minnesota were concerned about Trump’s prior statements on abortion and past political donations to Democratic candidates. “They were really concerned that he wasn’t going to be conservative,” Batzel said.
“Flash-forward four years later, you go down the list of conservative policy victories that he’s been at the forefront of, and those people are very enthusiastic Trump supporters and voters this time around,” he said.
Batzel, whose group has knocked on 60,000 doors in Wisconsin and another 40,000 in Virginia and Minnesota, said he has never seen this level of enthusiasm before.
As of Tuesday, more than 68 million early votes were cast, according to the University of Florida’s Michael McDonald and his U.S. Elections Project, with tallies in Wisconsin reaching 48.8% of the 2016 vote total.
Hunt the Vote is another organization engaged in reaching likely conservative voters who haven’t regularly voted.
Luke Hilgemann said his group found that less than half of adult-aged hunters in the country cast a ballot in the last election cycle.
“In my home state of Wisconsin, we have a population of about 700,000 licensed hunters who are 18 or older, and 360,000 of them voted in the last election cycle,” said Hilgemann. The group doesn’t endorse candidates but is heavily engaged in drawing voters to the polls.
The group’s efforts target two common themes that emerged in discussions and focus groups with hunters in battlegrounds across the country.
“No. 1, they just don’t think that their voice matters,” and two, they are not interested in the politicking of elections, he said.
Part of the strategy involves bringing people together for events and having participants sign a pledge to vote.
Wisconsin Family Action has amassed a universe of about 200,000 potential voters, identifying people who are conservatives who aren’t registered or who haven’t voted regularly, said Julaine Appling, the group’s executive director.
“In 2016, if you look at the map here, you see very deep-blue pockets, in Milwaukee and Madison and a couple of other larger cities, or if you look at the rural areas, they’re very bright red,” Appling said.
The group is targeting potential voters statewide this year, making an appeal that this election is really about “their family, their future, their faith, their freedom, and helping them to understand that.”
“Those kinds of voters are everywhere,” Appling added.
Appling said she had never seen the kind of enthusiasm that both sides are displaying this year.
“Our job is to go find those people who haven’t put out a [yard] sign, who haven’t taken time to register, who don’t vote in every election, to make sure they understand their right and responsibility,” she said.
Trump, who is holding daily rallies in battlegrounds, with multiple stops each day, was in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Nebraska on Tuesday.
“Our ground game is the largest that’s ever been mounted in American history,” Trump 2020 communications director Tim Murtaugh said on a call with reporters Tuesday, adding that the campaign had “surpassed 2.5 million volunteers, and our volunteers have made 160 million voter contacts.”