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We are proud to celebrate 40 years!

Biden to preview proposed student loan forgiveness program in Wisconsin

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

Today, President Biden visits Madison, Wis., a community that's become increasingly important to Democrats looking for another win in this battleground state. Here's Chuck Quirmbach of member station WUWM.

CHUCK QUIRMBACH, BYLINE: About 40 years ago, a Republican governor assessed the many liberal policies of Madison and called the city, quote, "30 square miles surrounded by reality." Then and now, Madison, Wisconsin's second-most populous city after Milwaukee, votes overwhelmingly Democratic. In statewide elections, turnout can soar. For some Democratic vote seekers, Madison and its surrounding suburbs have become at least as important as Milwaukee. In 2020, Biden defeated former president Donald Trump in Madison's surrounding Dane County by more than 50 percentage points. County resident Sig Midelfort says he and his friends are ready to trounce Trump again.

SIG MIDELFORT: There's a good, steady base of Biden supporters in town, at least as far as I'm concerned, people I know.

QUIRMBACH: That was Midelfort last month, while standing in line to attend a fundraiser in Madison featuring Vice President Kamala Harris. Now the president is heading to Madison, a college town home to the University of Wisconsin. Political columnist John Nichols says the campaign visits are a big change from 20 years ago.

JOHN NICHOLS: Democrats running in Wisconsin didn't come to Madison that much, maybe one rally. But both parties have now become mobilization machines, and so they go to their place of strength.

QUIRMBACH: While recent polls have shown weakness for Biden among 18- to 29-year-olds, the Biden-Harris campaign believes young people will ultimately be swayed by what they call a winning platform. The campaign points to loan forgiveness for some borrowers and job creation. But last week's Wisconsin presidential primary did produce a potential warning for Biden, even in liberal Madison. Fourteen percent of Democratic voters in Dane County marked their ballot as uninstructed, protesting the president's handling of the Israel-Hamas war. Meanwhile, Trump is making a big pitch for voters in rural areas and trying to win back suburban voters who deserted him in 2020. In that election, Biden carried Wisconsin by about 20,000 votes.

For NPR News, I'm Chuck Quirmbach in Milwaukee. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Chuck Quirmbach is a Milwaukee-based reporter who covers developments and issues in Southeastern Wisconsin that are of statewide interest. He has numerous years of experience covering state government, elections, the environment, energy, racial diversity issues, clergy abuse claims and major baseball stadium doings. He enjoys covering all topics.