MILWAUKEE — With the presidential election season fast approaching, the nation’s attention will soon turn to Milwaukee, the home of the 2024 Republican National Convention.
Ahead of its arrival next July, a key event will take place here this summer: the first Republican primary presidential debate.
“I would expect there to be a lot of money and a lot of attention paid to what's happening here in Wisconsin,“ said Paru Shah, Professor of Political Science, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
Wisconsin GOP Chair Brian Schimming says the announcement is very significant for a number of reasons, not only because it is the first one of the primary season but also because it brings a spotlight to Milwaukee much earlier than the convention would.
“Wisconsin's already been getting some attention from the individual candidates, but a debate puts most of them together on stage, draws attention not only to them, but to the host city,” said Schimming.
Historically, Wisconsin has played an important role in presidential elections.
Considered one of the country’s battleground or swing states, UW-Milwaukee political science professor Paru Shah says the last two elections were proof of our state’s power on a national level, with former president Donald Trump taking the state in 2016 and current president Joe Biden clinching it in 2020, both with nearly razor-thin margins.
“2016 was the last time that both parties kind of thought of Wisconsin as a sleeper state and weren't really concerned about them. And then, they realized that ‘Oh, that was not a smart move, that was a mistake.’ We're talking about 20,000, 30,000 votes making a difference,” said Shah.
Few details have been shared about this first debate but last month, the RNC Debates Committee announced that all presidential candidates must sign a “loyalty pledge” promising to support the eventual nominee or they would not be allowed to participate.
Schimming says while there is still much to be decided, having these events in the dairy state is already making an impact.
“This is an opportunity for Milwaukee and the region to showcase itself, not only in the Midwest, not only in the country, but in the world as a meeting site, as a tourism destination, and frankly, as being as politically relevant as it possibly gets on the national stage,” said Schimming.
With just over a year until the convention to go, Shah says the focus on our state will only continue to grow on both sides of the aisle.
“I think both parties understand that they then need to spend additional time here and to really take the time to get to know who is in Wisconsin and to talk to the voters here because you can't assume how they're going to vote,” said Shah.
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