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President Joe Biden delivers a speech outside Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Sept. 1, 2022. (AP) President Joe Biden delivers a speech outside Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Sept. 1, 2022. (AP)

President Joe Biden delivers a speech outside Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Sept. 1, 2022. (AP)

Madeline Heim
By Madeline Heim September 9, 2022

No, Biden didn’t say nearly half of Wisconsin voters are threats to democracy

If Your Time is short

  • The Republican Governors Association pointed to the 48.8% of Wisconsin voters who voted for former President Donald Trump in 2020, linking it with President Joe Biden’s recent comments assailing “MAGA Republicans.” 

  • But Biden’s remarks were directed at what he referred to as the faction’s “extremism,” and separated them from mainstream Republicans. And he didn’t mention Wisconsin specifically.

  • In a recent poll, a majority of Wisconsin Republicans polled said they viewed Trump favorably and would want him to run again in 2024, but not all — signaling that there are voters who may have voted along party lines but who do not support the former president’s far-right bent.

Ahead of the midterm elections, President Joe Biden has made waves with comments he made in several recent speeches, including one in Wisconsin. 

In a Sept. 1 prime-time speech in Philadelphia, Biden called out his predecessor, former President Donald Trump, and "MAGA Republicans," saying they "represent extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic." 

Biden doubled down on the point during his Sept. 5 appearance at Milwaukee’s Labor Fest, criticizing "extreme MAGA Republicans," referring to the former president’s Make America Great Again slogan. 

Republicans, both nationally and statewide, have seized on the comments and said they are a condemnation of all Republicans. 

That includes the Republican Governors Association. The group’s spokesperson, Maddie Anderson, wrote in an email blast on Sept. 5 — the day of the president’s visit to Milwaukee — that Biden "recently said that 48.8% of Wisconsin voters are threats to democracy." 

But that’s not what Biden said — and the extrapolation the Republican Governors Association took is a pretty big jump. 

Let’s dig in. 

Biden acknowledged not all Republicans endorse ‘extreme ideology’ 

When asked for backup for the association’s claim, Anderson pointed to Biden’s remarks, the criticism they drew and the percentage of Wisconsin voters who cast their vote for Trump in the 2020 election. That’s the 48.8%.

We’ll get the easy part out of the way first. 

Biden did not speak specifically about Wisconsin "MAGA Republican" voters — even during his visit to Milwaukee. The remarks were far more general, referencing America and Americans. 

And Biden aimed his comments at what he termed as the extreme end of the Republican party, not all Republicans, citing those who supported overturning the results of the 2020 election

He specifically drew a line between those he described as supporting threats to democracy and more mainline Republicans, whom Biden said he respects, noting: "Not every Republican is a MAGA Republican, not every Republican embraces that extreme ideology." 

So, for the Republican Governors Association to ascribe the claim to all 48.8% of state voters who voted for Trump is disingenuous at best — even if its aim was scoring a rhetorical point.

In Wisconsin, views about Trump — even among Republicans — come in various shades. 

"There is no single, widely accepted definition of the term (MAGA Republicans)," said Charles Franklin, director of the Marquette Law School poll. "Trying to specify a single number is not possible." 

But polls from June and August of this year demonstrate that the picture is far from as uniform as the Republican Governors Association suggests.

The combined summer polls found that Trump was seen favorably by 39% of registered voters, and 32% were not very or not at all confident in the accuracy of the 2020 election. 

Splitting it differently, 26% of voters were both favorable to Trump and not confident in the accuracy of the election. 

In the August poll, only 29% of all voters said they would like to see Trump run for president again in 2024. 

Although a majority of Republicans polled said they viewed Trump favorably and wanted him to run in 2024, some did not

The trend holds nationally, too. 

In an Aug. 25 NBC News poll, 41% of Republicans polled said they identified more with Trump than with the Republican Party. That means more than half identify more with the party than with Trump — in other words, they may have voted along party lines in 2020, but don’t subscribe fully to Trump’s ideology. 

Our ruling

The Republican Governors Association claimed that Biden "recently said that 48.8% of Wisconsin voters are threats to democracy." 

But the president clearly separated Republicans who embrace Trump’s far-right, election-denial positions from mainstream Republicans, who still may have cast a vote for Trump in 2020. And in Wisconsin, recent polling shows that there is not uniform support for Trump or his views, even among Republicans. 

That would mean Biden’s "MAGA Republicans" comment wouldn’t refer to every Wisconsinite who voted Republican in the last election. 

We rate this claim False. 

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More by Madeline Heim

No, Biden didn’t say nearly half of Wisconsin voters are threats to democracy

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