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How Are Voters Responding To Trump's Law-And-Order Message?

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The president visits Kenosha, Wis., today. He's disregarding a letter from the governor of Wisconsin. Gov. Tony Evers asked the president to stay away from the city that is facing protests over a police shooting. The president's visit fits in with his reelection theme of law and order. So how are voters in a vital swing state responding? Maayan Silver of our member station WUWM in Milwaukee is on the line. Good morning.

MAAYAN SILVER, BYLINE: Good morning.

INSKEEP: And first, why did Gov. Tony Evers and other officials ask the president to stay away?

SILVER: So two people are dead, one is paralyzed, another injured. The city is rebuilding from damage and boarded up businesses throughout its downtown. Trump has a history of inflammatory language. So Lieutenant Gov. Mandela Barnes tweeted, the city was on fire. And we need healing, not a barrel of gasoline rolling in. But there are plenty of Republicans who want to hear and see from Trump, like U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, who has said he - Trump provided decisive leadership.

INSKEEP: All right. Well, those are the officials. What are voters telling you?

SILVER: I did talk to a lot of people. If anything, this isn't changing anyone's mind. It's sort of just reinforcing settled opinions. One person I talked to was Jan Kaminski (ph). She was stocking up on pickling supplies at a farmer's market this weekend.

JAN KAMINSKI: I picked up pickles, garlic and dill. My mother's 94. And she likes to put up refrigerator pickles. She makes them and I get some (laughter).

SILVER: While the market seems far removed from the unrest that happened in Kenosha the previous week, it was on her mind.

KAMINSKI: There's nothing wrong with peaceful protesting. But don't tell me it's a peaceful protest, as they're showing on CNN, and behind the guy, there's a building burning. I mean, that's just sort of, like, crazy optics. Are you going to believe me or your own lying eyes, you know?

SILVER: Kaminski watched both political conventions. She won't say who she's voting for. But it's Trump's message that Democrats are to blame for the unrest that's sticking with her.

KAMINSKI: Well, there is something to be said when they say all these major - these cities that are having problems are run by Democrats. I didn't know that. You know, you have to put it that - look that they did in Kenosha when the National Guard came in and enough backup came. You know, the rioting and all that stopped.

SILVER: Others here, even former supporters of Trump, say that after four years, the president is not able to unite the country. Karen Cayman (ph) of Plymouth - it's north of Milwaukee - says she voted for Trump in 2016.

KAREN CAYMAN: And I will not vote for him again. He has no rules. And he fires everybody that he doesn't like and disagrees with him - and no morals.

SILVER: Even though she's concerned about what happened in Kenosha and is worried about looting and violence, Cayman says Trump is making it worse.

CAYMAN: He just wants people to riot. He instills riots and discord.

SILVER: The Democrats I spoke to at the market said the counter protests by right-wing groups that led to more violence just proved to them that Trump needs to go. Gaetano Marangelli (ph) was loading bushels of tomatoes into his car. He hopes people see through Trump's racially divisive message.

GAETANO MARANGELLI: This strikes me as, you know, a play that Republicans have run for years and decades. And they're running it again. Is it salient? Does it speak to people? I like to think it doesn't.

SILVER: Meanwhile, in Kenosha, where all this started, protesters are still showing up to demand justice for Jacob Blake, the Black man who was shot by police. Activist Lauren Cross (ph) says the experience has made many people realize they need to get out on the streets for change and engage in activism, not simply vote. But she says all the people out protesting are pretty single-minded when it comes to the ballot box.

LAUREN CROSS: I'd definitely say so. I think, like, all the people out here are voting against Trump in some capacity.

INSKEEP: Those are some voters who spoke with Maayan Silver, reporter in Wisconsin. How did they fit into the big picture in your state?

SILVER: So it's too early to tell. But it's really a question of whether this hyper-motivates one side or the other more. Trump won Wisconsin by just 22,000 votes in 2016. He really can't afford to lose it this time. One reason he won was that turnout in Milwaukee, which is a majority nonwhite city, was down from past elections. And there's a deep racial divide between the city and its suburbs, between Milwaukee and Madison and the rest of the state. So there are a lot of signs that the president plans to emphasize racial strife on his visit and then in the coming months.

INSKEEP: Reporter Maayan Silver of WUWM in Milwaukee in the state of Wisconsin, where President Trump visits Kenosha today. Thanks so much.

SILVER: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.