Wisconsin Democrats, including those in their Rock County stronghold who believe Republican President Donald Trump’s 2016 win in the Badger State was somehow tainted, rigged or a misalignment of planets, should pay attention to the results of a new Marquette University Law School poll.

The poll was conducted Nov. 13-17 among registered voters, and the validity of Marquette Law School polls is widely accepted. Polls are not necessarily predictive, although tracking poll results over a period of time reveals trends.

Given the caveats and qualifiers, this latest Marquette poll should be a wake-up call to Wisconsin Democrats.

For example, Trump’s numbers are improving in Wisconsin despite relentless impeachment media coverage and criticism. In an October Marquette poll, 44% of poll respondents favored impeaching Trump with 51% opposed to impeachment. A month later, 40% favored impeachment while 53% were opposed.

With a margin of error of 4.1 percentage points, the poll numbers offer no hard conclusions, but the needle is moving favorably for Trump.

The same cannot be said for Democratic Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers. The Marquette poll found that Evers’ approval rating of 52% in October fell to 47% in November. Again, the margin of error creates a lot of room for discussion, but the needle moved in a negative direction for the governor.

Why, according to the poll, is Trump trending up and Evers down? That’s a question Wisconsin Democrats need to find an answer for.

The November Marquette poll also found that Trump leads all Democratic presidential candidates in head-to-head contests. In October, Joe Biden held a 50% to 44% lead over Trump. One month later, Trump led 47% to 44%.

Democrats in Wisconsin were caught flat-footed in 2016. Their presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, was a terrible candidate who ran a flawed campaign. Trump won, and Clinton lost, regardless of any foreign involvement.

This time around, Wisconsin Democrats have been forewarned. Trump has support in Wisconsin, and he has proven to be a formidable candidate.

Rock County Democrats can boast that they did their part in 2016 by delivering the county to Clinton. But, as we saw, that was not enough. The election results show that Democratic support was down in Rock County compared to the votes for former President Barack Obama.

Turnout in key Democratic counties around the state was down in 2016.

The November Marquette poll was taken just prior to public testimony in the impeachment hearings. The next Marquette poll could give an indication if that testimony hurt or helped Trump.

Polls are merely glimpses of what’s happening at the time. It’s the trends that are more revealing. The polls, at this time, show Trump with strong support in Wisconsin. Will Democrats respond in the final year of the campaign?

Will the Democratic candidate bother to campaign in Wisconsin? Will Wisconsin be a battleground state in the election as it was in 2016, or will the winner wrap things up with wins in Ohio, Florida, Virginia and Pennsylvania?

Wisconsin Democrats who thought their state would never help Trump win need to now consider that possibility. Like it or not, they need to realize Trump is for real, and the poll numbers are confirming that. Republicans are taking notice, and they will remain energized until the election next year.

Race car drivers have a motto: “Drive it like you stole it.” Wisconsin Democrats need to campaign as if Obama is on the ballot.

Stan Milam, a Janesville native, worked 40 years for The Gazette and its former parent company. He is the host of the “Stan Milam Show” on WCLO Radio.

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