Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and DNC Chair Tom Perez touted a revamped ground game after acknowledging Dems’ strategy in Wisconsin in the 2016 presidential election left “votes on the table.”

Speaking at a breakfast in Washington, D.C., Barrett said the party made a “mistake” by buying into a media-led narrative proclaiming the state was solidly blue in the runup to the election.

“They had won it consecutively for several decades, but oftentimes it was maybe by 1 percent or 2 percent,” he said. “So how anybody could just assume because you won by 1 percent four years ago or eight years ago or 12 years ago that you were going to win at this time was a mistake.”

Coupled with a voter outreach program that Perez said barely kicked into gear four years ago, Dems saw voters who had twice turned out to support former President Barack Obama either stay at home or cast ballots for Jill Stein — a fatal blow in a swing state decided by fewer than 23,000 votes.

“If Jill Stein voters had been for Secretary Clinton, that would’ve been enough to cover the 21,000 plus delta,” Perez said. “Same thing with the stay at home.”

In Milwaukee, Barrett said a poor ground game manifested itself when enthusiasm for Clinton “dissipated horribly” at the polls. But he added that there is a desire among communities of color in the city “to have engagement from the Democratic party.”

“I think that part of our challenge now is to make sure everyone’s engaged,” Barrett said, adding the DNC convention would not be a “parachute effort.”

The focus on rebuilding a ground game in the state, Perez said, was among the national Dem party’s top priorities in choosing Milwaukee as the host city.

“It’s not simply a party for four nights,” Perez said of the convention. “It’s an organizing opportunity.”

But Perez noted that work would not begin at the convention. He said Dems have been active on the ground starting in 2017, when the party made “a commitment to organizing in every zip code.”

“As a result of that, we saw a lot of these remarkable statewide victories in 2018,” he said.

Those results spurred on further investments in the ground game and Perez touted a diverse and “homegrown” organizing base that coordinated with volunteers to knock on 200,000 doors this summer.

“The folks we hired in Wisconsin, almost all of them are from Wisconsin,” he said. “So basically they’re going back to their communities to engage.”

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