SAUK CITY, Wis. (SPECTRUM NEWS) — Mitch Breunig is undecided on who he will vote for in November's Presidential Election.
The Southern Wisconsin dairy farmer voted for Donald Trump in 2016, but the last four years haven't convinced him to vote for another term.
“I voted for change because we just needed new blood in Washington D.C. that was kind of outside the box thinking,” Breunig said. “I think he brought some of that, I just haven't been impressed with the way he treats people and I really am just looking for that inspiring leadership.”
Breunig cares about a lot of issues — healthcare, schools, guns — but he does look closely at agriculture too. He thinks in theory President Trump's trade negotiations were going to be a good thing, but he's not sure if things are better now. Particularly with Mexico, a giant dairy importer, which Breunig fears started looking elsewhere for some of its products during negotiations for the new U.S., Canada, Mexico trade agreement.
“As we've really sort of gone through that process, I'm not sure that trade relationship was as good as it was when we started,” Breunig said.
However, he hasn't heard much if anything from Democratic Presidential Nominee Joe Biden on agriculture.
“I really would have to go back and really study his track record because I don't see him out here making speeches in Wisconsin talking about, you know what he's going to do for Wisconsin agriculture and agriculture as a whole,” Breunig said.
Rural voters will likely play a large role again in this Presidential Election according to the University of Wisconsin- Green Bay professor David Helpap. He said rural voters helped Trump in Wisconsin in 2016. However, when it comes to agriculture, it's not clear if he is in a better or worse spot this year.
“What we have to keep an eye out for now is, is there enough dissatisfaction with some of these rural voters that they're willing to swing back to the Democratic Party already, or are they going to say 'you know what we'll give the republican party and president Trump another chance',” Helpap said.
Helpap said that neither party has talked a lot about rural issues yet this election cycle.
“If you start seeing that level of attention, and I think you probably will, that's when you'll know that they are very interested in this group of voters,” Helpap said.
The key to getting those voters, Helpap said, could be to show them that you care about them either by showing up in their communities or speaking to them in another way.
“Show them that you care and realize that turnout is going to be a huge issue in 2020, no matter where it's coming from,” Helpap said.
Barry Burden, a political scientist with UW-Madison and director of the Elections Resource Center, said rural voters seem to have moved left some since the last Presidential Election.
Burden said Trump had success in 2016 speaking to rural voters who felt left behind, it's not clear that would work again.
“I think his position is worse in farming communities today than it would have been in 2016,” Burden said. “His policies have not quite delivered on the promises he made.”
Burden said trade deals have not yet materialized. He said effects from the USMCA deal which replaced NAFTA have not come through yet and aren't likely to make a big impact.
Burden said from a messaging standpoint to rural and urban communities the talk will be dominated by the coronavirus over the next few months — both the public health and the economic sides of it.
“I think just about every other issue including farm commodity prices and trade relationships is going to be connected to COVID in some fashion,” Burden said.
Breunig said he wants to see campaigns get creative to speak directly to voters in a pandemic-altered campaign.
While Breunig will consider several issues to decide who he will ultimately vote for, leadership in a difficult time will play heavily.
“I like leaders that inspire people, and I just feel like the negativity, the constant bickering, and name-calling with people, you know that's just not my kind of leader,” Breunig said.
For Breunig and Wisconsin voters like him, his vote can still be won.
“Both candidates in the next 82 days I just heard this morning, have that opportunity to show how they're going to be as leaders because I think leadership is really important,” Breunig said.