Trump’s biggest loss this week was in Wisconsin, not New York

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Former President Donald Trump was arraigned in New York Tuesday on 34 felony counts of falsifying business records, but the largest blow to his hopes of reclaiming the White House might have occurred nearly 1,000 miles away in Wisconsin where liberals secured a majority on the state’s Supreme Court for the first time in 15 years. Timothy A. Clary/AP

Trump’s biggest loss this week was in Wisconsin, not New York

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Former President Donald Trump was arraigned in New York on Tuesday on 34 felony counts of falsifying business records, but the largest blow to his hopes of reclaiming the White House might have occurred nearly 1,000 miles away in Wisconsin, where liberals secured a majority on the state’s Supreme Court for the first time in 15 years.

Hours after Trump became the first American president to face felony charges, Judge Janet Protasiewicz claimed victory over former Justice Dan Kelly, a major Trump supporter and one of the Wisconsin Republicans central to the former president’s attempts to throw out the results of the 2020 general election.

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Kelly, who was appointed to the Supreme Court by former Wisconsin GOP Gov. Scott Walker in 2016 to replace retiring Justice David Prosser, announced in 2019 his intent to run for a full 10-year term but eventually lost in the April 2020 Supreme Court general election. Following that defeat, Kelly joined the Institute for Reforming Government, a conservative nonprofit group, and served as legal counsel to Wisconsin Republicans’ efforts to aid Trump in decertifying President Joe Biden‘s general election victory.

Wisconsin represented one of the seven states where the Trump legal team and allies launched legal efforts to block the certification of Biden’s win, and the Wisconsin Supreme Court, which at the time was controlled by conservatives, eventually voted 4-3 in December of 2020 to deny Trump’s challenge. Conservative Justice Brian Hagedorn sided with the liberals on the court to cast the deciding vote.

This election, Protasiewicz and Democratic allies spent more than $23 million tying Kelly to Trump’s failed attempts to overturn the 2020 results. Democratic officials told the Washington Examiner that it’s “critical” for the party to win down-ballot elections “so that ultra-MAGA local politicians can’t move to pull a 2020 in 2024.”

As of Wednesday morning, Kelly trailed Protasiewicz by 10 points with 95% of all votes counted, and he lashed out at his opponent in a Trumpian concession speech Tuesday night.

“I wish that in a circumstance like this, I would be able to concede to a worthy opponent, but I do not have a worthy opponent to which I can concede,” he said. “This was the most deeply deceitful, dishonorable, despicable campaign that I have ever seen run for the courts.”

Still, there is a chance that Protasiewicz could be impeached and removed from the court by the Republican supermajority in the state senate, which was also solidified Tuesday night after former state GOP Rep. Dan Knodl defeated attorney Jodi Habush Sinykin in the special election to fill the 8th District seat.

Knodl previously hinted at plans to bring an impeachment vote to the floor should Protasiewicz best Kelly, but If Protasiewicz is removed from the bench, Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, would then appoint someone to fill the hole.

Though Trumpworld officials have argued that Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s “witch hunt” case would help secure him the 2024 Republican nomination, Wisconsin politicos doubted the impact the indictment would have on the Supreme Court election.

“While this [indictment] may get the juice flowing with some of his supporters, some may have a head shake and shoulder shrug,” former state GOP leader Brandon Scholz suggested before Tuesday’s race was called. “This indictment thing isn’t really tied into this race. It is a Trump issue.”

“We’re focused on winning a critical election in four days that will have long-term consequences for millions of Wisconsinites when it comes to issues like reproductive rights and the strength of our democracy,” he said in a statement. “We know voters are focused on this race because it’s an opportunity to return fairness and impartiality to the Wisconsin Supreme Court.”

Protasiewicz campaign spokesman Sam Roecker also predicted that voters wouldn’t “be distracted by what’s happening in New York.”

Trump himself criticized Kelly on Wednesday, claiming on his social media site, Truth Social, that the former justice would have won had he sought an endorsement from the former president.

“Daniel Kelly of Wisconsin just lost his Supreme Court Election. He bragged that he won’t seek Trump’s Endorsement, so I didn’t give it—which guaranteed his loss,” he wrote. “How foolish is a man that doesn’t seek an Endorsement that would have won him the Election?”

Trump did endorse Kelly during the 2020 Supreme Court election, which saw him falling to Justice Jill Karofsky by more than 10 points.

The turnout from Tuesday’s contest also portends a poor showing for Trump in the state should he be the GOP nominee in 2024.

On Tuesday, 1.84 million Wisconsin voters took part in the Supreme Court election, roughly 800,000 fewer participants than the 2022 midterm election but still the highest mark for a Supreme Court election in a nonpresidential election year since 2008. The liberal-leaning Milwaukee and Madison metropolitan areas accounted for 26% of all votes cast Tuesday, up 4 points from the November 2022 midterm elections, which saw Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) hold off progressive challenger Mandela Barnes.

Three Trump associates admitted to the Washington Examiner that Tuesday’s results make Trump’s path back to the White House more difficult.

“Wisconsin is a critical swing state,” one person said. “If the turnout is similar in November 2024, I don’t think any Republican could win there.”

Trump won Wisconsin in 2016 by roughly 20,000 votes after former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton failed to hold a single campaign event in the state, but he lost the state in 2020 by a similar margin.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre chalked up Tuesday’s results to Wisconsin voters prioritizing reproductive rights, with the court expected to hear an abortion case this spring. The new liberal majority all but guarantees the court will overturn a 19th-century abortion ban that was reinstated following 2022’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization ruling.

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“Time and time again, the American people have shown their resolute support for reproductive freedom in our democracy, and last night was no different,” Jean-Pierre told reporters at Wednesday’s White House briefing. “The message from voters has been clear. Americans want the freedom to make reproductive healthcare decisions without government interference. They have been very clear about that.”

“We believe that it is important for Americans to have their freedom, including their right to make a decision, and women to have the right to make a decision on their own on their own healthcare, and so the this is the this is an administration that’s going to continue to fight for a fight for those freedoms,” she concluded.

© 2023 Washington Examiner

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