For more than a decade, Wisconsin has been among the most polarized and evenly divided states in the country, and the fate of its political candidates has hung on turnout. When Democrats in its two major cities — Madison and Milwaukee — turned out in big numbers, party standard-bearers like Barack Obama and Gov. Tony Evers won statewide elections. But when Democratic turnout in Milwaukee or Madison has been soft, Republicans have prevailed: former Gov. Scott Walker carried the state in three elections between 2010 and 2014, and Mr. Trump won in 2016 by fewer than 23,000 votes out of nearly three million cast.
In Wisconsin’s cities, enthusiasm is high. The poll found 81 percent of voters in the cities said they were “almost certain” to vote, compared with 69 percent of suburban voters and 68 percent of rural voters. These city voters are also far more likely to favor Mr. Biden over Mr. Trump to maintain law and order. The intensity gap, if it is maintained through Election Day, is likely to benefit Mr. Biden.
In Trump-era elections that Democrats have won, there has been a surge of voter turnout in heavily Democratic Dane County, which includes Madison — the state capital and home of the flagship University of Wisconsin campus. In April’s state Supreme Court election, nearly as many votes were cast in Dane County as in Milwaukee County, even though Dane County has less than 60 percent of Milwaukee County’s population.
Justin Lang, a 38-year-old software developer in Verona, just outside Madison, said he had already ordered his absentee ballot to vote by mail for Mr. Biden.
“One hundred percent,” he said, when asked how certain he was that he would vote. “I don’t know that everyone is gung ho about Joe Biden in particular, but there’s a shared feeling across the board that Trumpism is a big problem. And that we need to get in there and vote to repudiate that.”
He added, “Within my social group, that’s going to be a big thing.”
The swing region of the state is the Fox Valley, a collection of small cities and rural areas stretching south from Green Bay. Andrew Fox, 38, an Iraq war veteran from Menasha, a community of 18,000 on the northern tip of Lake Winnebago, said he was not a fan of either major presidential candidate but was inclined to stick with Mr. Trump.
NEW DELHI: Days after Ayush ministry’s secretary Vaidya Rajesh Kotecha‘s comments in an online conference, asking participants to “leave” if they had a problem with him speaking in Hindi, opposition DMK has written to the Centre asking for all official events to be conducted in English. Condemning the “incident of imposition” of Hindi, DMK MP and deputy leader of the party in Lok Sabha Kanimozhi wrote to Ayush minister Shripad Yesso Naik. “I urge you to direct the officials in your ministry to make sure that all official events are conducted in English and wherever Hindi is used, a corresponding translation in English is provided,” she wrote. This is the second time in two weeks that DMK has registered its protest over the use of Hindi. Last week, Kanimozhi had said she had been asked by a CISF official at an airport to talk in Hindi to prove she’s “Indian”. She told that she had always had a problem with the use of Hindi for official events and this seemed like a logical solution. “Most parliamentarians and officials know only English apart from their mother tongue”, she said. The Ayush secretary, meanwhile, has responded to Kanimozhi’s letter, he told TOI. “It is possible (to consider the suggestion) and even a separate training programme for officers from TN is possible.” Kotecha had earlier said he had made no statements that could hurt sentiments. “A bunch of hooligans and government officials from Tamil Nadu had crashed the webinar. The link was shared with 350 participants but 430 joined. They started shouting. The speech was bilingual. The video had been morphed,” he said.
His Facebook page — and almost every McGowan-related post on the pages of WA news outlets — regularly attracts hundreds of glowing messages of public support.
He speaks directly to people in long open letters, videos, info-graphs and pictures.
The Premier and his team are drawing more attention to his Facebook posts than what every single one of Perth’s major media organisations can muster up on their own pages combined — and then some.
In August 2019, Mr McGowan had fewer than 25,000 followers. That number is now almost 250,000.
His direct opposition, WA Liberals leader Liza Harvey, has little over 5,000 followers.
Dr Cook said the support Mr McGowan had amassed on Facebook was a political party strategist’s dream.
“I think his media advisors would be foolish if they’re not watching the Facebook comments in great detail,” he said.
“This is the stuff they’ve been looking for — the ability to cut the traditional media out of the conversation and control what issues we talk about, how we talk about them to control the political agenda.”
Dr Cook said Mr McGowan had used his Facebook platform to build his brand to an almost celebrity level.
“The more people feel connected to Mark McGowan, the more they’re likely to vote for Mark McGowan’s people,” he said.
“He’s been doing a fantastic job in terms of getting West Australians behind him so I think this can directly translate into electoral support.”
Mr McGowan’s office said the strategy was nothing new.
“Communications from the State Government have always had a strong social media focus, and over the last few years that focus evolved and adapted accordingly,” his office said.
“Western Australians have utilised the Premier’s Facebook page as a reliable source of information throughout the pandemic.”
The Premier’s biggest social success story was an Easter message to the children of Western Australia which racked up millions of views and was mimicked by many other politicians.
“I think it was an opportunity — someone saw a kid write about can the Easter Bunny get into Western Australia,” Dr Cook said.
“If you’re in the party and you see that, you have to see it as a moment of ‘hey, look, we can we can work with this’.
“The media play they got out of that was enormous and all very successful for Mark McGowan.”
The humanising of a Premier
Mr Leaver said the spotlight on the country’s leaders during the pandemic gave them a political opportunity to showcase more personable sides of their character to the public.
He said Mr McGowan was a perfect example of a politician being ‘humanised’ through the lens of social media.
A perfect example was when in April, he was asked at a press conference about a man being fined in the eastern states for going for a run, then stopping to eat a kebab.
Mr McGowan essentially got the giggles on live TV over the idea that someone would jog, and then immediately eat a kebab.
It gained him immediate popularity — and the video on the ABC’s YouTube channel has been watched more than 350,000 times.
“I think everyone could appreciate in a context where everyone’s stressed up to their eyeballs, that having moments of levity like (the kebab video) were are incredibly humanizing,” Mr Leaver said.
“It’s not Premier of Western Australia, it’s Mark McGowan. That’s incredibly valuable.”
Mr Leaver said Mr McGowan’s ongoing clash of words with Clive Palmer over WA’s border closures meant his social media status would sustain even as COVID-19 becomes less of an immediate threat for West Australians.
“I think, ironically, Clive Palmer has done more for Mark McGowan than he could possibly have imagined,” he said.
“It would not shock me at all if this is studied in great detail.
“There is going to be modelling of how to do social media well in an emergency situation and I think McGowan is a really good example of that.
“It doesn’t feel like he exudes elitism, perhaps in a way that some other politicians have.”
“The context of an emergency has lowered political boundaries in a way that that very few other things could have.
“Your interaction with the Premier when they’re at the top in a Facebook Live window does not feel significantly different to a video chat with your friend or colleague, for example.”
Mr Leaver said social media had proven itself as an essential battleground on which elections were won.
“Donald Trump’s campaign, for example, and their clever use of Facebook in particular is what many people believe won them the 2016 election,” he said,
“We saw it was used in Australia in the last federal election reasonably well — it is a key campaigning space.”
What goes up … must come down?
Dr Cook warned a national emergency was a volatile event to pin political success to, particularly on an already fickle platform like social media.
He said the real test for most politicians would be if their state fell victim to a second wave of coronavirus infections, as Daniel Andrews had proved.
“The thing we know about social media is groups can turn and this relatively friendly space can turn into a pretty ugly space,” he said.
“It can be a quite difficult space to control and it can work for you really well, one day, but not necessarily the next.
Summing up Mr Gunner’s struggle to connect with Territorians in his first three years as Chief Minister, Ms Woolf says: “If [my listeners] could’ve blamed him for the weather, they would’ve blamed him for the weather”.
But Ms Woolf says that since coronavirus has taken over the daily news cycle and consumed almost all political debate, her listeners have been warming to the Chief Minister.
“He seemed to come across a lot more confidently in the way in which he was presenting his message to Territorians. And as a result, a lot of people became more positive towards him.”
‘Here he is’: Gunner appears absent no longer
It was less than three months ago Mr Gunner’s electoral fortunes seemed on a knife edge.
After a huge swing away from the party at the Johnston by-election in March, the Northern Territory’s only daily newspaper, the NT News, editorialised that Mr Gunner had “no choice but to step down as Labor leader”.
Political opponents, who also called for his sacking, claimed the result showed Mr Gunner was on borrowed time.
He says the Chief Minister also seemed unwilling to front the media when there was bad news to announce, leaving his Deputy Nicole Manison and Attorney-General Natasha Fyles to regularly front the electorate in his place.
“What is remarkable is we are seeing the Chief Minister out front leading because there is a straightforward clear message to deliver and people are concerned,” Mr Mills says.
There have also been good results to trumpet. So far, the NT has had the lowest rate of positive COVID-19 tests in the country and according to Michael Gunner is “the safest place in the nation”.
A shifting style with a ‘Territory’ touch
As Mr Gunner has shifted into the role of the Northern Territory’s protector-in-chief during the coronavirus crisis, Ms Woolf says the Chief Minister has also developed a more personalised and colloquial style of leadership.
It’s a change of tack Ms Woolf says is working with voters.
When announcing business shutdowns, Mr Gunner took on personal responsibility for the pain to come.
“I know jobs will be lost; I feel sick about that. I have agonised over these decisions,” he said.
And when they reopened, Mr Gunner told Territorians there was a “keg convoy rolling up the Stuart Highway” with “175,000 litres of the good stuff” to fill the pubs.
In his more “blokey” tone, Mr Gunner said he understood if Territorians were “pissed off” about the cancellation of Territory Day (which he said he didn’t want to “half-arse”), and claimed the behaviour of Territorians outshone “dickheads at Bondi”.
On people spitting at emergency services workers, Mr Gunner called them “grubs” and “un-Territorian”.
Since coronavirus breached Northern Territory borders, Alice Springs-based political observer Professor Rolf Gerritsen says the Chief Minister’s new image has been of “the sort of bloke you would have a beer with in the pub”.
Last month, Mr Gunner told voters that June 5 — the date pubs can resume normal operations in the Northern Territory — was the day for a “Sunday sesh”.
Three months after calling for his sacking, the NT News’s position had also changed.
“During the past few weeks, we have seen Mr Gunner take the bull by the horns and do his job as he should have always been doing,” the News Corp paper wrote in an editorial earlier this month
Maxine Hawker, an Alice Springs woman who shared her views with the ABC on Mr Gunner’s recent performance, put it like this: “I wasn’t particularly fond of him, but I think he’s handled this well”.
Michael Gunner’s ‘real test’ is ahead
While the coronavirus crisis has triggered upheaval in economies, health systems, and the lives of Australians, during the pandemic there has been one near constant in states and territories across the nation: our leaders are gaining in popularity.
Back in March, in the immediate aftermath of the Johnston by-election, ABC election analyst Antony Green tweeted that Labor’s prospects looked grim and suggested that the Territory was headed for a “wild” election on August 22.
Now, as adversarial politics takes a backseat in a global health emergency, Mr Green says that key election issues which had plagued the Chief Minister have, for now, been “blown out of the water”.
While there is no published polling in the Northern Territory, Mr Mills believes Mr Gunner’s popularity has increased through the coronavirus pandemic.
“When people have a high level of fear they will look to their leaders for direction,” he says.
“The question is, is he up to it, or is he just going to disappear again when it becomes difficult?”
Mr Mills — a man who covets Michael Gunner’s job — has been calling for the August NT election to be postponed until after voters get to see the NT budget in October.
But Mr Gerritsen says any goodwill afforded to Mr Gunner during the coronavirus pandemic could dissipate even by August as issues like the economy, crime and fracking resurface.
“As soon as the brakes come off, then all the issues that were bubbling before this happened will resume and [Mr Gunner] will then be in a worse position to deal with them because of the deteriorating fiscal position,” he says.
Back on the airwaves, Katie Woolf says she is already starting to perceive a shift in what callers want to talk about: the economy and the justice system.
“[Mr Gunner’s problems aren’t] going away because of the coronavirus crisis,” Ms Woolf says.
“In fact, in a couple of months’ time I feel as though [they] could be magnified.