Democrats are mounting a major push to protect the so-called “blue wall” states that were crucial to former President Trump’s 2016 victory, banking on key victories in the Midwest to help secure their hold on power in Washington.
The effort comes as President Biden looks to clinch a second term and several senators from the region face reelection.
“It’s clear that the path to the White House, the path to retaining a Senate majority cuts through the Midwest,” said Kaitlin Fahey, a Democratic consultant and former chief of staff to Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.).
The Democratic National Committee’s decision to host its 2024 convention in Chicago is seen as a signal of the party’s commitment to protect the states that form the “blue wall.” Governors of Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois and Minnesota signed a letter supporting Chicago’s DNC bid in which they said the party “must do everything we can to ensure the blue wall becomes an impenetrable blue fortress.”
Meanwhile, Republicans have chosen nearby Milwaukee as the site of their convention, a move that underscores their intent to chip away at the Democratic stronghold.
Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin are also home to competitive Senate races this cycle, and Democrats are taking nothing for granted.
“This is Pennsylvania, the work never stops,” said one Pennsylvania Democratic strategist. “We will not be abandoning any part of the state.”
In Michigan and Pennsylvania, Democrats made gains up and down the ballot in 2022, winning the suburbs while making a play for rural areas usually dominated by Republicans.
“From a GOP perspective, those margins that Trump was able to do in 2016 are good, but it’s also [because] he was able to have much better margins in the suburbs,” the strategist said.
In Wisconsin, the party celebrated a major victory earlier this month when Milwaukee County Judge Janet Protasiewicz’s victory handed a majority to liberals on the state’s Supreme Court for the first time in 15 years.
The Biden campaign and outside groups backing the president’s reelection have also made clear where their focus is, with ads airing in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin as part of a $1 million ad buy. In addition, Priorities USA announced a goal of putting $75 million toward digital mobilization and programming to persuade voters in those states.
“In large part, it is because of [Sen. Tammy Baldwin’s] focus on issues that are important to people across the political spectrum in Wisconsin,” said Arik Wolk, a spokesperson for the Wisconsin Democratic Party.
“They understand persuasion needs to be happening 24/7,” added Mike Nellis, a Democratic strategist at Authentic, a fundraising and consulting agency.
With the 2024 election less than two years away, Democrats are making sure to keep the “blue wall” states in their sights, hoping that the region will be a key to their success.