MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin may be a battleground state, if the polls are to be believed, but Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump aren’t treating it like one.
Both Clinton and Trump are focusing their time and money elsewhere with the election less than seven weeks away.
Trump has not been to Wisconsin in over a month, since he made three stops on Aug. 16. Trump was campaigning in Ohio on Wednesday. Clinton hasn’t campaigned Wisconsin since the April primary, although her running mate Tim Kaine did hold a rally in Milwaukee in early August and a Madison fundraiser last month. Clinton spent Wednesday in Florida.
Neither side is spending money on campaign ads in Wisconsin yet, although a conservative political action committee launched a $1.2 million anti-Clinton spot this week. The ad by the Wisconsin-based Reform America Fund came three weeks after a Marquette University Law School poll showed the race to be tightening to about even.
The latest Marquette poll released Wednesday showed “very little shift,” according to pollster Charles Franklin. Clinton led Trump 43 percent to 38 percent among registered voters and 44 percent to 42 percent among likely voters.
That is nearly unchanged from three weeks ago. And both among registered and likely voters, the race is within the poll’s margin of error.
The tightness of the race makes the upcoming presidential debates, the first of which is Monday, all the more important, Franklin said. Debates don’t usually change public opinion dramatically, but four years ago Republican Mitt Romney got a huge bounce after the first debate against President Barack Obama that eventually dissipated, Franklin said.
“But you don’t know whether it will dissipate or not,” Franklin said. The debate, or debates plural, could play a really important role in how we see the race shape up and change.”
While the presidential race has tightened in recent weeks in Wisconsin, Clinton has never trailed Trump in the state. Trump lost the state to Ted Cruz in the April GOP primary and Wisconsin has not voted for a Republican for president since Ronald Reagan in 1984.
Still, Clinton didn’t do well in Wisconsin’s primary, losing to Bernie Sanders by 13 points. She had planned to make Wisconsin her first campaign stop with President Obama back in June, but they canceled in the wake of the Orlando nightclub shootings. Clinton has not rescheduled.
Even though the presidential candidates have largely focused their attention elsewhere in recent weeks, Wisconsin’s U.S. Senate race between incumbent Republican Sen. Ron Johnson and Democrat Russ Feingold remains one of the hottest in the country. It is the third highest in fundraising and spending, based on a tally by the Center for Responsive Politics.
Feingold has consistently been ahead in Marquette University polls, but three weeks ago the survey showed the race to be about even. In the new poll Wednesday, Feingold had a 6-point advantage among both registered and likely voters.
The latest poll’s margin of error is 4.4 percentage points among registered voters and 4.8 points among likely voters. The poll of 802 registered Wisconsin voters was conducted Sept. 15 through Sunday.
Johnson released a new ad on Wednesday touting his faith-based initiative called the Joseph Project, which has been running in Milwaukee for a year trying to connect inner-city people with jobs. It recently expanded to Madison.
Feingold also released a positive ad this week that focused on his plan for helping Wisconsin businesses grow.