Trump’s Harley-Davidson Feud Roils Wisconsin Primary
President Donald Trump’s call for a boycott of Harley-Davidson motorcycles forced Gov. Scott Walker and other Republicans to either criticize the president or stick with the Milwaukee-based company just ahead of Tuesday’s primary where Trump allegiance has been a central focus.
“I want Harley Davidson to prosper here in the state of Wisconsin. And one of the best ways for that to happen is to do what the president has called for and that is to get to no tariffs.”
Trump on Sunday tweeted it was “great” that “many” Harley owners planned to boycott the company if manufacturing moves overseas, continuing a steel tariff dispute he’s had since June with the company.
Many @harleydavidson owners plan to boycott the company if manufacturing moves overseas. Great! Most other companies are coming in our direction, including Harley competitors. A really bad move! U.S. will soon have a level playing field, or better.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 12, 2018
Walker, Wisconsin’s most prominent Harley owner who faces a tough re-election bid in November, issued a statement that did not directly address the boycott call.
“I want Harley Davidson to prosper here in the state of Wisconsin,” Walker said. “And one of the best ways for that to happen is to do what the president has called for and that is to get to no tariffs.”
Trump’s attacks on Harley have put Walker in a tough spot politically as he runs for a third term in November. Eight Democrats were running in Tuesday’s primary for a chance to take on Walker who is seeking a third term.
Former U.S. Marine Kevin Nicholson and state Sen. Leah Vukmir were running in the Republican primary for chance to take on Baldwin. Both were running as strong Trump supporters, but the president has not endorsed in the race.
Vukmir, who won the endorsement of the Wisconsin Republican Party, was making a final campaign swing in southeast Wisconsin, including a stop with retiring House Speaker Paul Ryan. Vukmir’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In July, Harley-Davidson said it expects new tariffs to cost the company as much as $100 million annually.
A spokesman for Harley-Davidson declined to comment both Sunday and Monday.
Polls have shown the Senate race to be a dead heat. State Superintendent Tony Evers had a double-digit lead in the Democratic gubernatorial primary based on polls in the months leading up to the election.
But others in the race who had raised enough to advertise on television were hoping for a late swing in their favor, particularly among younger voters.
Whoever wins the Democratic primary will enter the final three months of the race at a financial disadvantage to Walker. He had $4.8 million cash on hand in August, while the top tier Democrats were likely to be tapped out after spending on the primary.
The Wisconsin Democratic Party and the Democratic Governors Association have been raising money and building infrastructure in preparation for Wednesday, to help the winner of the primary get a fast start against Walker.
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