America’s presidential race dominated the country’s political news in 2016 – including in Wisconsin. Donald Trump defied the polls and won the state. In addition, the year ushered in a second term for Republican Sen. Ron Johnson.
The election activity started right away and brought plenty of surprises. The presidential candidates campaigned early and often, before Wisconsin’s April primary.
One of them, on the Republican side, was Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. “If there are needs in the workforce and American workers are not available to do it, that’s where legal immigration should come in.”
Cruz ended up winning the Wisconsin primary – he was favored by many leading Republicans here. On the Democratic side, UW-Milwaukee hosted a debate between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders; Sanders was popular on campus.
“If there is a large voter turnout, if the people of Wisconsin are prepared to stand up and help lead this country to a political revolution, then we’re going to win.”
And indeed Sanders won the state primary, and Hillary Clinton, never again returned to Wisconsin to campaign. Donald Trump left the pollsters scratching their heads when he won Wisconsin in November. Trump consistently trailed Hillary Clinton in the polls, yet didn’t give up. He held rallies in Waukesha, West Bend and Green Bay and repeatedly vowed to turn Wisconsin red.
“On November 8, we are going to win this state and we are going to win back the White House. We are going to make America great again, believe me.”
Marquette Law School Poll Director Charles Franklin talked about why the surveys showing Hillary Clinton with a sustained lead in Wisconsin, turned out to be wrong.
“In the exit poll for Wisconsin, 14 percent of voters said they decided in the last week how to vote and they went for Trump 58 to 31, a really remarkably lopsided late decision.”
One person who swept into office with Trump was Republican Sen. Ron Johnson. That race also stumped the pollsters. Johnson’s opponent, former Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold jumped out to a double digit lead way back in 2015. Johnson thanked his supporters in Oshkosh on Election Night and outlined priorities for his second term.
“As Americans, as Wisconsinites we all share the same goal. We all want a safe, prosperous, secure Wisconsin and America.”
Some of the other noteworthy political developments included the historic recount in Wisconsin, which yielded an additional 130 votes for Donald Trump. Also, a federal court threw out Republican-drawn legislative district boundaries, saying they amount to an unconstitutional gerrymander. So that issue remains alive. And, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to re-start John Doe II, an investigation into whether Gov. Walker’s 2012 recall campaign illegally coordinated with outside groups. The high court’s decision effectively ended the probe.
Looking ahead to 2017, the first order of business will be for state leaders to adopt a new two-year budget and the biggest issue inside will be transportation – and how to plug a $1 billion hole. Also, stay tuned to learn whether Gov. Walker will run for a third term.