Wisconsin Republicans think they have found the key to making their state permanently “red.”

It’s rooted in an ever-improving field program, honed across three gubernatorial races in four years, Interim Executive Director Mark Morgan said.

After winning in 2010, Gov. Scott Walker survived a 2012 recall before being re-elected in 2014. The state GOP wanted to make sure it had a “perpetual field program,” said Morgan, who was political director for the 2016 cycle. The party kept open four field offices across the state after the 2012 elections, which “made it easier to scale up” for election years while maintaining a presence in the off years.

In 2015, party leaders wanted to expand their “permanent footprint” and opened two more field offices, complete with regional directors and volunteers and staff who focused on organization.

“We didn’t want to cede any ground this cycle,” he said.

After trailing the entire campaign, Donald Trump became the first Republican presidential candidate to win Wisconsin since President Reagan. And Sen. Ron Johnson, who experts wrote off from the start and considered the cycle’s most vulnerable incumbent, managed to defeat former Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold for the second time.

Some say it could mean the GOP has figured out how to hold the state.

“The evidence of the last few elections certainly gives them reason to argue that,” said Charles Franklin, the Marquette University poll director, noting Republicans’ statewide success the last few cycles.

“But no polling has shown a shift in the underlying partisan balance of the state,” Franklin said. Democrats actually have an advantage among voters who identify themselves as either Republicans or Democrats.

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“Those numbers haven’t moved much over the last four or six or eight years,” he said. “But when it comes to turnout, that is the big difference.”

Morgan said the party concentrated on early voting more this year than ever.

Republican staffers and volunteers knocked on 1 million doors between Sept. 26, when early voting started, and Election Day, he said. That is more than double the 415,000 they covered in 2012.

Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s surprise defeat in the state was largely attributable to her inability to connect with voters outside the state’s liberal bases of Madison and Milwaukee, said one state GOP insider. “I don’t see where Democrats expand if they’re not winning rural areas or the affluent suburbs anymore,” the insider said.

Democrats were stunned Clinton lost Great Lakes states such as Wisconsin and Michigan. A group of House Democrats is trying to get the party to retool its message to reconnect with voters in those once reliably “blue” states.

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Whether Wisconsin went blue this year was more about Clinton’s candidacy than a shift away from the party nationally remains to be seen.

According to exit polls, voters who disliked both candidates strongly preferred Trump, 60 percent to 23 percent. And voters who waited until the last minute to decide also heavily favored Trump, 59 percent to 30 percent. That group composed 14 percent of Wisconsinites who voted.

Still, Morgan is confident that Trump and Johnson seemingly over-performed because of Republican’s superior get-out-the-vote operation, analysis and voter targeting.

“Our robust infrastructure and data operation is housed by the party and focused on electing Republicans at all levels, not just a single candidate, which will allow us to be successful up and down ballot for years to come,” he said.

And of course having the national party chairman hail from your state — Reince Priebus is a proud cheesehead — couldn’t hurt. Now that he his Trump’s chief of staff, he’ll likely be even more determined to deliver Wisconsin to Trump again should he seek re-election in 2020.

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