Joe Biden, Wisconsin Democrats hold virtual rally; discuss Floyd, pandemic, ousting President Trump

MADISON — Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden urged Wisconsin Democrats in a brief recorded message broadcast during an online state convention Friday.

United to discuss plans to defeat President Donald Trump in the November election, that message was repeated by Democratic office holders at the state and local level, who also pushed the need to prevent Republicans from winning enough seats in the Legislature to have a supermajority that could override vetoes of Democratic Gov. Tony Evers.

“This is no time for weenies," said Senate Minority Leader Janet Bewley. "We need Wisconsin bratwurst.”

The convention, originally scheduled as a pep rally for activists at a Wisconsin Dells convention center, was moved to an online-only meeting due to the coronavirus pandemic. The two-day meeting was shortened to a couple hours on Friday night.

Biden and Democratic office holders, from Evers on down to mayors and county executives, touched on the protests for racial justice that have erupted since George Floyd's killing by Minneapolis police, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the priority of ousting President Trump. He carried Wisconsin by fewer than 23,000 votes in 2016 and the state remains one of the few true battlegrounds this year due to the nearly equally divided electorate.

“Let’s not fool ourselves, the eyes of the world are on us in Wisconsin," said Rep. Ron Kind, whose western Wisconsin district President Trump won by 4.5 points. "We have to make Donald Trump a one-term president.”

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who won Wisconsin's Democratic primary in 2016, called President Trump the “most dangerous president in the modern history of this country.”

“At this particular moment, our job clearly must be to elect Joe Biden as our next president and defeat Donald Trump," Sanders said.

Evers called for protecting his veto by not allowing Republicans to gain three seats in both the Senate and Assembly and also pledged to stand with Biden, just as he supported Evers in 2018.

“Wisconsin is a lynch pin state and we’re going to be ready, folks," Evers said.

Biden, in a speech clocking in at less than 2 minutes and 30 seconds, called Wisconsin "an important battleground state for our campaign in 2020 and we have to do everything we can to make sure candidates on the ballot do well in November.”

The state convention comes roughly two months before Democrats from across the country come to Milwaukee for the national convention to officially nominate Biden. Unlike the state convention, that meeting will include in-person events, including Biden accepting the nomination, along with virtual elements. Democratic leaders have not yet said how many people will be allowed to attend or how much of the convention will be online.

Republicans derided the Democrats' online convention. Trump campaign spokeswoman Anna Kelly accused Biden of “continuing to hide in his basement” and said Democrats have “no chance" of winning the state.

“While Democrats try to rally themselves behind a nominee they can’t get excited about, longing for the days of Bernie Sanders’ support from establishment Democrats, Republicans in Wisconsin are ready to re-elect President Donald J. Trump,” said Wisconsin Republican Party Chairman Andrew Hitt.