Wisconsin Democrats to host virtual convention Friday night

MADISON, Wis. — The state Democratic Party is holding its convention Friday.

It will look very different than what the party originally planned, as what was once a two-day event is now a two-hour virtual program.

Wisconsin Democrats planned a stacked lineup of speakers, including Sen. Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden.

“The biggest thing is keeping enthusiasm up and getting people to turn out,” said Charles Franklin, the director of the Marquette Law School Poll.

Franklin said getting that enthusiasm and messaging across through a screen might be difficult.

“I don’t think it reaches a mass audience,” he said. “But it actually might expand a little bit the number of Democratic activists and interested players who can participate, or at least watch the proceedings.”

The state’s Republican Party is still planning an in-person convention for next month.

Andrew Hitt, the chair of Wisconsin GOP, said they are checking CDC guidelines and working with a physician.

“We have gone through numerous meetings with the venue to talk about social distancing, talk about how to make sure the movements of people throughout the convention are done in the safest way possible,” Hitt said.

He said he thinks Democrats will use their convention to criticize President Donald Trump, though he said voters should look at the president’s record.

Franklin said Democratic leaders should also take the opportunity to look not just at Biden and Trump, but also the future of the state.

“There’s no doubt that the Trump and Biden campaigns will be here campaigning a lot in the fall, and so in one sense I think the state party might want to focus on things closer to home,” he said. “And that includes invigorating its voters, and not act as if it were purely a surrogate for the presidential campaign.”

The event begins at 7 p.m.