Democrats hope Biden could get a boost from down-ballot races under Wisconsin’s new legislative map

New legislative districts adopted last month erase Republican advantages that gave the GOP dominance of the Wisconsin Assembly even as Democrats won 14 of the past 17 statewide elections. Democrats think they can now compete for a majority, but also that invigorated legislative campaigns can help turn out votes for President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris in November. 

Ben Wikler, the state Democratic Party chairman, describes the idea as “reverse coattails,” a play on the traditional idea that down-ballot candidates are carried by the top of the ticket. 

“It drives up turnout among people who had been unlikely to vote in a way that can directly affect the number of votes we get for Biden-Harris,” he said. “It’s why, I think, there are consequences far beyond the state Legislature of having the new state legislative maps drawn.”

Wisconsin is also among a half-dozen battleground states where Democrats are defending Senate seats in hopes of protecting their 51-49 majority. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, running for a third term, is likely to face millionaire businessman Eric Hovde who faces only nominal Republican opposition in the Aug. 13 primary. 

Baldwin agrees that she could benefit from “reverse coattails” of legislative races. Previous districts “were so gerrymandered, which meant that there were whole swaths of Wisconsin where there weren’t competitive races,” she said.