Wisconsin Republicans have seem largely divided over Donald Trump securing his status as the presumptive presidential nominee of the party.
Some, such as Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau), have urged the party faithful to rally behind the billionaire. Others prominent party members, including U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan of Janesville, have taken a more cautious approach and said they are still evaluating their support. Some, such as Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke (R-Kaukauna) withdrew as an alternate delegate to the national convention, after being a vocal part of the “#NeverTrump” movement.
Those differences are expected to be simmering under the surface this weekend, as Wisconsin Republicans gather in Green Bay for their annual state convention. “I think you are seeing the party a little bit splintered, or at least fractured on Trump,” says Marquette University Law School political scientist Charles Franklin. “That is a divide in the party that will have to evolve over the course of the summer…how well can the party come together?”
Franklin says efforts at unification will take time, and it could stretch into the national convention before some of the less enthusiastic members of the party come around. “As the party adapts to Trump as the nominee, and faces the reality of Hillary Clinton as the opposition, there are going to be powerful psychological forces among the rank and file…to reconcile themselves to Donald Trump as the nominee.”
Despite disagreement on Trump, Franklin notes the party still has a lot at the state-level to help rally the faithful over this weekend. Those races include U.S. Senator Ron Johnson’s (R-WI) re-election bid against Democrat Russ Feingold, efforts to maintain majorities in the state Senate and Assembly, and the vacancy in the 8th Congressional District brought on by the retirement of Rep. Reid Ribble (R-WI).
The convention gets underway Friday in Green Bay and runs through Sunday. Delegates will hear from most major party leaders, including Governor Scott Walker and Speaker Ryan, who is expected to speak to the convention Saturday night.