Political strategists David Axelrod and Karl Rove talk elections, political climate in Wisconsin

Published: Apr. 3, 2019 at 10:14 PM CDT
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Well-known political strategists David Axelrod and Karl Rove held a public conversation session Tuesday at UW-Green Bay addressing politics in today's world.

Democrat David Axelrod served as a senior advisor to President Barack Obama and is a CNN political commentator. Republican Karl Rove served as a senior advisor and Deputy Chief of Staff during the President George W. Bush administration; he's also a Fox News contributor.

Before the public discussion, the two held a private Q&A session for UWGB students.

Even though the pair don't agree on many political issues, they say more often than not healthy compromise is rarely shown to the public as part of the lawmaking process but it does happen behind closed doors.

"I think in politics and in public policy there are a lot more instances where you say, ‘I can do that if you'll do this,’ and we're both participants in that dialogue move,” said Rove.

Axelrod says one of the problems with today’s democracy is the slow moving process.

"We don't agree on, you know, many things, but we both fundamentally respect each other as people who are passionate about this process, and we have great respect for the process of democracy itself," said Axelrod.

One thing the two can agree on is that Wisconsin is a battleground state.

"Wisconsin is the silent battleground state,” said Rove. “You were a battleground state in 2000, you were a battleground state in 2004, and you were a battleground state in 2008, 2012 and 2016."

Axelrod cited the razor thin results of Tuesday’s Wisconsin Supreme Court race and says Democrats will need strong support out of Milwaukee if they want to capture the 2020 presidential elections.

"If the conservative candidate wins -- I know it wasn't a partisan race but it had a partisan tinge to it -- it will be because Milwaukee didn't turn out,” said Axelrod adds. “So if you're a Democrat, that's what you're looking at. You don't want to write off any part of the state, but you definitely have to get a strong vote out of Milwaukee."

"For the Republicans, they've got a problem in Ozaukee, Washington and Waukesha with suburbanites, and they've got to shore that up and then keep what is happening out of state," said Rove.

Next year the Democratic National Convention will be held in Milwaukee. Both Axelrod and Rove say there is a slight advantage to holding a convention in a battleground state like Wisconsin

"Ironically enough it was one of the reasons why the Republican Convention came to Dallas, Texas, in 1984. People forget that in 1980 one of the 10 battleground states was Texas," Rove says.

"I thought it was a wise decision for the Democratic Party to put the convention in Milwaukee, because I do believe that Wisconsin is and will be a prime battleground state," said Axelrod.