MILWAUKEE - A Democratic watch party of about two dozen people met at the beer garden outside Fiserv Forum on Tuesday, Sept. 29, while masked and socially distanced to watch the night's presidential debate.
Democrats are looking ahead to November as a referendum on President Donald Trump and his response to the COVID-19 pandemic and a looming threat to the Affordable Care Act and its prospects before the U.S. Supreme Court.
"Health care is on the ballot. COVID-19 is on the ballot, but it also comes down to Park Avenue versus Scranton, Pennsylvania," said Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.
Mayor Barrett and Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley spoke to the two dozen or so gathered for the watch party, the pandemic making it clear that this was not a normal watch party, nor a normal debate. The mood was subdued and quiet as people tried to make sense of the direction of the night.
While the debates may not sway those who have already made up their minds, it provides an opportunity to speak to the American people about the issues the country is facing.
"I think that these debates are sort of a high-wire act where you have more to lose than you have to gain," said Mayor Barrett. "You have your core supporters and 90% of people have decided, but you don't want to make a mistake."
In 2016, there were small slices of undecided voters in Wisconsin. Wisconsin Democrats are clear-eyed about the lack of voter turnout in 2016.
Roughly 40,000 voters did not shop up to the polls in Milwaukee County in 2016; President Trump won Wisconsin by roughly 23,000 votes that year.
"This is not 2016, and I think a lot of voters, for the past few years, are excited to come to the ballot box," Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley said.
For voters at the beer garden, while the debates could maybe swing some of those who are undecided, the next five weeks will be important to ensure that those who have made up their minds fill out their ballots and turn them in.