Biden campaigns in Wisconsin to reverse Democrats' 2016 loss

Democratic US presidential candidate Joe Biden had a narrow edge in the most recent poll of Wisconsin. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG) - Mr Joe Biden wants to win Wisconsin to get to the White House. And to do so, he needs to campaign there. So on Wednesday, he did - from Delaware.

The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee spent the day campaigning from afar in the key battleground that Mrs Hillary Clinton lost by less than 23,000 of the nearly three million votes cast for president in the Badger State.

Her loss in Wisconsin was attributed to her failure to set foot there during the general election, leaving the campaigning to surrogates and staff - and handing a state that had voted for the Democrat in every presidential election since 1988 to the Republicans.

Mr Biden and Wisconsin Democrats stressed on Wednesday that they're fighting to win back the state in November.

The candidate's team held a roundtable discussion with rural voters in La Crosse, an afternoon rally in Milwaukee and interviews with TV stations in Green Bay, Madison and Milwaukee.

At the virtual rally targeted at Milwaukee, Mr Biden got local with his message, railing against President Donald Trump's "unmitigated disaster of a tariff war" in which, he said, "Wisconsin farmers have been hit the hardest."

He also attacked Mr Trump for working with former Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker on an agreement to bring the Taiwanese company Foxconn Technology Group to the state, which he said resulted in "trading away billions in exchange for 13,000 jobs that never materialised".

Senator Tammy Baldwin, a potential vice-presidential pick, highlighted the importance of Wisconsin in November.

"Even though your visit here today is virtual, we know that this event represents how important Wisconsin will be to making you the next president of the United States," Ms Baldwin said during the Milwaukee rally.

The state's lieutenant-governor, Mr Mandela Barnes, added, "We know that the path to the White House runs directly through the state of Wisconsin."

While Mr Biden couldn't travel because he is abiding by Delaware's lockdown order, his trip via livestream was a signal that his campaign isn't losing track of Wisconsin, even as it looks to broaden the number of battleground states to include Arizona, Georgia and Texas.

The former vice-president has also campaigned virtually in Florida, while his wife, Mrs Jill Biden, has already done the same thing in Arizona and Pennsylvania, among other states, with plans to hit Georgia on Thursday.

The Wisconsin Republican Party dismissed Mr Biden's virtual visit as "out of touch".

"Joe Biden's increasingly far-left agenda couldn't be more wrong for Wisconsin," said Mr Andrew Hitt, the party chairman.

"From Biden's position on supporting the Green New Deal that would devastate Wisconsin farmers and manufacturers to his plans to launch a government takeover of healthcare that would force millions off their plans, Biden proves that he is out-of-touch with the people of Wisconsin."

Mr Biden had a narrow edge in the most recent poll of the state, leading Mr Trump 46 per cent to 43 per cent among registered voters in a Marquette University Law School poll conducted May 3-7.

Views of Trump's handling of the coronavirus crisis have worsened as it's persisted, with 51 per cent saying they disapproved of his performance.

Democrats have been so intent on winning back Wisconsin that the party chose to hold its presidential nominating convention in Milwaukee, though that may be largely virtual as well.

It was already pushed from July to August to improve the odds that at least some participants will be able to gather there without endangering public health.

Democratic Governor Tony Evers this week expressed his doubts, saying on Monday that it was "likely" the convention would be held virtually.

"I want the Democratic convention to happen. But I also want to ensure that there isn't stress on the public health system, nor put the delegates and others that come to the convention in harm's way," he said.

The state's businesses have begun re-opening since the state supreme court overturned Evers' order that extended its "Safer at Home" policy through May 26.

"A lot of businesses find themselves in a situation where really they're uneasy about the future. They want to get open, you know, every business wants to get people back in and, you know, enjoy their business, but they're really worried about doing it safely," Mr Rob Grover, the director of economic development in Trempealeau County, said during the La Crosse roundtable.

The roundtable, like many of Mr Biden's similar in-person appearances, stretched past an hour as he spoke with local leaders about how their communities have changed since the coronavirus pandemic hit.

The live viewer counter on the YouTube page hovered around 400 to 500, which would've been a strong showing for an in-person event in the city of some 50,000.

"We can't wait until we can have you in county here," Mr Grover told Mr Biden.

"I wish I were with you now," the candidate responded.

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