Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said the Dem-backed impeachment probe has “jazzed up” supporters of President Trump in the state.
“I don’t think there’s any two ways of looking at it,” the Juneau Republican said yesterday at a WisPolitics.com luncheon in Madison. “They are fired up, and they’re upset with what’s going on.”
Fitzgerald, who is running to succeed U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner in Congress while managing the state Senate reelection campaigns, warned that Dems are “very close” to “a point where they can overplay their hand” as they investigate Trump and allegations he and associates worked to withhold aid to Ukraine for his political gain.
“If they try and delegitimize Donald Trump and his election there’s going to be a backlash, and I think it’s going to be in turnout,” he said.
“It’s those independents,” he said. “If you look at the Marquette poll, independents are definitely not there when it comes to impeachment.”
The Marquette Law School Poll earlier this week showed Wisconsin voters largely split over whether there’s enough evidence to hold impeachment hearings against Trump, with 46 percent believing there is enough now to hold hearings, while 49 percent disagreed.
Survey Director Charles Franklin said there was slightly less support among Wisconsin voters than the average of national surveys, but highlighted a “notable upturn” in support from the spring, when Marquette found a split of 29-65.
Still, only 35 percent of independents polled by Franklin backed hearings, while 53 percent didn’t.
Quizzed as to why he thinks Dems are pursuing a probe into Trump, Fitzgerald pointed to an interview in which U.S. Rep. Al Green, D-Texas, told MSNBC in May in the aftermath of the release of the Muller Report that he was “concerned if we don’t impeach this president, he will get reelected.”
“I think that’s really part of what’s going on right now,” Fitzgerald said.
The Juneau Republican also speculated Dems were trying to “create enough chaos for the next 13 months” that voters are “not gonna want to vote for what’s going on so they’ll vote for whomever is on the other side of the ballot.”
Fitzgerald was an early backer of the president during his 2016 run to the White House and is running in the 5th CD as a staunch Trump ally. He said he pitched his lot in with Trump despite the presence of more prominent conservatives like former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, because of a “drumbeat” for the former business mogul across his Senate district.
“You could really feel it, you know, kind of coming on. And it wasn’t just me, other electeds were saying the same thing,” he said.
But Fitzgerald also put the decision down to political calculus, telling the crowd of Capitol insiders that he came to the realization that “if we’re going to keep the state Senate, if some of these races that are going to be very close in certain parts of the state are going to happen, it’s going to be because Trump is certainly the nominee.”
“So part of it was out of this drum beat. And the other part was, it was a matter of being practical. We need this guy if we’re going to have success down-ballot, and that did happen,” he said.
Despite the support Fitzgerald saw in 2016, he conceded a number of voters in the 5th CD “maybe weren’t 100 percent with him last time.” But he said Trump’s actions since taking office have won over that group.
“They’re there now, at least they are in this part of the state,” he said.
But Dem state Party chair Ben Wikler disputed that categorization, saying Republicans in “once-bright-red” Washington, Ozaukee and Waukesha counties are “running away from Trump at a full sprint” because of his “record of breaking promises on health care costs, gun safety legislation, and jobs.”
Hear audio from the luncheon:
See the full Marquette University Law School Poll results: