Donald Trump in Kenosha
President Donald Trump takes the stage in Kenosha the night of Nov. 2, less than 12 hours before polls were set to open in Wisconsin for the presidential election. He lost the state to President-elect Joe Biden. (Photo by Jonathon Sadowski)

President lags Joe Biden in virtually every poll of Wisconsin voters but predicts another surprise win.

Twelve hours before the polls in Wisconsin were set to open for the presidential election, President Donald Trump came to Kenosha and delivered a deluge of grievances, falsehoods, and thinly veiled calls for chaos in a city he last visited on Sept. 1, inflaming community tensions after the police shooting of Jacob Blake.

It was Trump’s third visit to Wisconsin in just over a week as he tries to make up lost ground in polls, which consistently show him trailing Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. His visits were made in the midst of one of the worst COVID-19 spikes the nation has seen, as Kenosha County reached almost 5,600 positive coronavirus cases and 89 deaths, and just days after Wisconsin surpassed 2,000 deaths from the virus.

About half of the president’s crowd wore masks as they packed together on the frigid fall night.

Supporters of President Donald Trump wait for the president to arrive Monday night at the Kenosha Regional Airport. (Photo by Jonathon Sadowski)

Trump opened his rally by wrongly taking credit for restoring peace in Kenosha.

“We brought law and order to Kenosha,” he claimed.

Trump has previously lied about how “there would be no Kenosha right now” if not for his demanding of a National Guard response. That statement is false on all levels; a small, though significant, part of the city suffered damage during the riots, and Gov. Tony Evers was the one who sent National Guardsmen to the city.

Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth, a Republican who endorsed Trump in September, spoke before the rally and similarly overhyped Trump’s involvement in the riots. There have been calls for Beth to resign over his handling of the Blake shooting, an incident where he earlier was shown to have lied about claiming to have not watched video of the incident.

During his speech, Trump thanked Beth for his endorsement.

US Rep. Bryan Steil and Sen. Ron Johnson, both Wisconsin Republicans, spoke as well and tried to energize the GOP base. 

Steil, glossing over how conservatives control two-thirds of Wisconsin state government, said Republicans needed to flip enough seats in the Assembly and state Senate to get a veto-proof supermajority “to put a check on Gov. Tony Evers.” Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) in September said he does not expect to pick up enough seats for a supermajority that would give Republicans complete control of the state government.

Johnson, one of the nation’s most prominent believers in the Hunter Biden conspiracies, complained of “the deep state” preventing credible media coverage of the theories.

Early in the speech, Trump had to switch microphones because the volume was low on one. When an audio technician came to switch the microphones, Trump mused that he may not pay the audio company, which he said was from Kenosha.

“I don’t like to pay bills when people do a bad job,” Trump said.

When there were again audio issues, he called the microphone “a piece of garbage” and told a campaign staffer “don’t pay them.”

As in other rallies, Trump attacked the legal counting of absentee ballots because the process will stretch past Election Day, as it always has. His effort to undermine the validity of Americans’ votes included allusions to violence which arguably ranged from predictions to wishful thinking.

President Donald Trump speaks in Kenosha Monday night, less than 12 hours before polls were set to open in Wisconsin for the presidential election. (Photo by Jonathon Sadowski)

Rather than building a case around what he might do in a second term, Trump used much of his time to criticize everything from media coverage of the coronavirus pandemic to celebrities who’ve endorsed Biden.

Though predicting another surprise win as in 2016, Trump is down an average 8.4% in Wisconsin against Biden across state and national polls, according to analysis by the nonpartisan FiveThirtyEight.