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There is a possibility maverick GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump could clash with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

Or former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton could trade barbs with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in La Crosse this winter.

Each major political party has scheduled a presidential candidate debate in Wisconsin, with the GOP hopefuls visiting the Badger State this fall and the Democratic candidates in February or March. Locations haven’t been set, but President Barack Obama’s recent visit has political observers, including Viterbo University history professor Keith Knutson, excited.

“I would love to see one of the two debates come to town,” he said. “As a hometown guy, I am pulling for us.”

Joe Heim, a political science professor emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, said hosting a debate in the city could be a long shot, but the region has some things going for it. The natural choice might be a bigger media market, such as Madison or Milwaukee. But those areas aren’t really in play when it comes time to vote.

Western Wisconsin is more of a toss up.

La Crosse has a history of visits by presidents and presidential candidates, which Heim said is a plus in picking a venue for a debate. President Bill Clinton visited the city once in 1998, and President George W. Bush visited La Crosse twice during his first term.

Obama visited La Crosse as a candidate in 2008 and last month as president, which Heim said makes the job of planning security for a debate easier since much of the work has already been done. As a smaller city, La Crosse is also easier to secure than a major city such as Milwaukee.

The city is also located in an area of the Midwest that makes it appealing. Hosting a debate in La Crosse would offer an opportunity for one of the parties to frame the visit as a “view from the Heartland,” Knutson said. The visit would also have a spillover effect into Minnesota and Iowa, with Iowa’s Feb. 1 caucuses an important litmus test for the crowded Republican field.

Regardless of where the debates are held, both Knutson and Heim said, Wisconsin is getting more of the spotlight in the 2016 presidential race due its rising status with the GOP. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus is from Wisconsin, and GOP candidate Mitt Ronmey chose Rep. Paul Ryan of Janesville as his running mate.

While Wisconsin has a two-term Republican governor in Walker, it hasn’t gone to a Republican in a national election since President Ronald Reagan won the state in 1984. Recent presidential elections have been close, making the battleground state’s 10 electoral votes an important prize for the GOP.

While Walker survived a recall attempt and won re-election against Democratic challenger Mary Burke last year, Knutson said Walker remains a controversial politician.

His approval rating has fallen since the November election, and he has some gaffes on his record, Knutson said. They include Walker comparing his fight with Wisconsin’s public sector unions with the fight against ISIS.

“This is the state where Walker’s appeal was built,” Knutson said. “But Walker is not resoundingly popular. He’s been divisive.”

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Nathan Hansen has been the Education Reporter for the Tribune since 2014. Prior to that, he covered education, agriculture and business topics for the Winona Daily News. He is always on the lookout for news tips and can be contacted at 608-791-8234.

(22) comments

new2Lax

Walker is not divisive. The divisiveness comes when the left obstructs what he wants to do. If they went along, problem solved. So just doing that tells me, it's the left being divisive, after all he was elected three times and should be able to legislate the way he wants with the majority who elected him. It would be a little different if he was elected once but three times is an overwhelming support of his ideas.

oldhomey

And what, pray tell, do you say about the Republicans who have obstructed everything that Obama has tried to do? Would you cavalierly suggest that if they would have just gone along with what Obama wanted, "problem solved"? Do you even read the dreck like this that the Koch machine pays you to post on here? It has all the internal logic of an HR notice to employees telling how you are cutting their benefits to "enhance" their work experience. Walker is not divisive, even though he is caught red-handed on video telling one of his billionaire backers that his plan to dissolve the unions is to use "divide and conquer" tactics? I can make two ironclad predictions here, new2. Obama will never win another presidential election and Walker will never win another Wisconsin gubernatorial election. And as an added bonus, he will never win the nomination in the GOP primaries next year. Clinton? I don't know.

jharrimjr

new2Kochianpropagandizing, funny thing, the Polish and French reistances wouldn't have been obstructionists either during the other Fuehrer's reign had they also just "went along, problem solved" as you put it.

See, your predatory kind DO want a one-party political system in this country so they can control everything for the benefit of the privileged few and the 1%.

Given your self-proclaimed upstanding morality, i know you wouldn't lie to all of us, so tell all of us here that you'd find a one-party GOP system in this country abhorent.

union conservative

I bet Walker's security isn't even close to what the 1st ladies wardrobe cost the taxpayers :)

union conservative

This just in 500 teacher and 1200 support staff to be laid off in Chicago. Had their union not been so demanding the district would not have over a $1 BILLION SHORTFALL. This is exactly what WI avoid by electing Scott Walk.....3 times..... Maybe he isn't such a bad leader after all. I will we could have a Walker/Trump ticket to vote on for president :)

oldhomey

non-union conservative, you could not be more wrong. The union has not been demanding, the governor, who astoundingly patterns his regime after Scott Walker's, is trying to kill the unions by refusing to offer a budget unless the Democratic legislature in Illinois agrees to kill the public service unions. The shortfall, which is serious, has two main causes. One is that the state kept spending the teacher pension money on other state budget items rather than setting them aside. The Wisconsin teachers union never let repeated attempts by Wisconsin legislators to spend their pension money, so it never had a shortfall. Second, the state of Illinois has always funded all teacher pensions in the state EXCEPT for Chicago's teachers. So Chicago taxpayers have always paid into teacher pension plans for everywhere in the state except Chicago. You want to cast teachers as greedy thugs stealing from their neighbors, but teachers don't make big salaries or pensions in Wisconsin OR Illinois.

Audreys Hat

Teachers in La Crosse school district do make big salaries and pensions. That is why surrounding school districts have a clause in their contracts that they cannot leave for a job in the La Crosse school district for so many years if they accept a teaching position with them. You must be thinking of Foley Alabama schools.

oldhomey

Hat, if what you say is the case, I think it would be more accurate to say that surrounding school districts have pitifully low pay scales for their teachers. La Crosse teachers are not certainly not overpaid, with the average teacher in the system earning $42,701.

union conservative

Honey, That money doesn't grow on trees like you think it does. It all comes from the taxpayers in one form or another. And yes I have chosen to opt out of the union like a few others I work with. Unions have over stayed and used their power for years. They ALL have to be reset so everything is fair again, just like WI.

oldhomey

I have a very strong gut feeling, union conservative, just as I do with The Veteran, that your "handle" on these posts is a complete lie, you never belonged to a union, or it was so brief and so long ago that it doesn't count, just as The Veteran is no veteran of any branch of the military service.

ThomasPaineJefferson

Walker the phony flamboyantly rides around on a UNION MADE Harley Davidson while insulting Unions all across the Nation.......d-bag for sure.....lifelong vampire living off of taxpayer monies, never had a job in the private sector...and he just gave two out of state hedge fund scumbags $400 million in Wisconsin taxpayer monies for a stadium that will never generate $400 million in tax revenues in this Century or the next.

He's a hypocritical joke. Trump will lay this billionaire worshiping melonhead to shreds....can't wait.

sylvester

How much is Walkers security costing the Wis taxpayers while He is traveling the country?

GrandpaS

An opportunity to hear Donald Trump and Ted Cruz throw insults at each other and pretend that that makes them presidential. I'm so excited........

oldhomey

My guess is that both of those guys will be missing in action by then, but I certainly see your point, Grandpa.

ChatterCat2

Since the Republican’s are scheduling a debate in Wisconsin this fall, we can be sure Scott Walker will be in Wisconsin at least once during autumn.

fish37

chatter.. I am not sure he will show up.

Buggs Raplin

Slow day at the Tribune for them to conjure up this nonsensical fantasy and then headline it. But gullible locals will entertain the idea of La Crosse hosting a presidential debate as a possibility simply because the Tribune got two college professors to talk about it. Here's a dose of reality. If there is a presidential debate in Wisconsin, it will be in Madison or Milwaukee.

oldhomey

Wow. Here is an unusual dose of reality, Buggs Raplin, the man who rules the vast domain of his overheated imagination, telling somebody else to get a grip on reality. I seem to remember in one of the two George W. Bush campaigns that both he and his Democractic rival made stops in Bosstown. What's the population there?Less than a dozen around the intersection, I imagine. But presidential campaigns are as much about image and "messaging" as they are about reaching large numbers of people at each campaign event. So I don't think it is exactly a pipe dream that a debate would be scheduled here. Perhaps more likely to be in Madison or Milwaukee, but it would not be a big shock if it was held in a smaller place, either.

oldhomey

I should add, the Coulee region population base is not exactly overwhelming in terms of a candidate looking for big-time exposure, but a debate is a nationally televised event. What difference does it make if it is done in Milwaukee, Madison, La Crosse or Boss Town? You're still hitting the numbers you're looking for with the television coverage, and a debate between the top candidates conducted in a La Crosse riverside venue or a Boss Town barnyard might even stimulate more people nationally to watch.

Buggs Raplin

You're so naïve the Tribune will nominate you its blogger of the month. Nothing to be proud of.

oldhomey

Okay, that's settled, Buggs. I am naive. You left yourself wide open for further comment, but I tire of stripping your postings bare day after day.

Mr Bluejeans

“But Walker is not resoundingly popular. He’s been devisive.”
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File that quote under "UNDERSTATEMENT; political observations"

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