The senator was referencing job losses in the valley caused by the closures of Shopko department stores and the downsizing of Kimberly-Clark Corp. factories. Sanders also took a shot at the fiasco that has played out since Trump and former Wisconsin governor Scott Walker promised the Taiwan-based technology firm Foxconn $3 billion in state subsidies (now closer to $4.5 billion) in return for a wildly optimistic promise to create 13,000 jobs in southeast Wisconsin. As the company sent mixed signals about actually following through on its commitments, Walker's already ailing 2018 reelection campaign stumbled, and he was defeated by Democrat Tony Evers.
Two days later, Sanders was back on Twitter, declaring that "Donald Trump betrayed working people in Wisconsin. Our message to President Trump as he visits Green Bay: you're not going to get away with your lies any longer. We'll defeat you and protect American jobs."
The senator's trolling of the president drew headlines in Wisconsin newspapers, along with radio and television coverage.
Then the Sanders campaign took things to the next level. On the eve of the president's visit to Green Bay, the Twitter message was amplified by a banner ad on the top of the front page of the local daily newspaper: "Donald Trump Lied to Wisconsin Workers. In a Bernie Sanders White House, we will end the corporate greed behind the Shopko closures, Kimberly-Clark layoffs and Foxconn scam."
On the day of the Trump event, Sanders backers rallied in Green Bay to challenge presidential claims that have never stood up to serious scrutiny.
What Sanders and his supporters are doing is sly. They won't neglect the primaries and caucuses that are essential to winning the nomination. But instead of focusing exclusively on the competition with other Democrats, they are messing with Trump -- with an eye toward exposing the president's lies and reframing the fight for the battleground states.
Challenging Trump's economic claims may not be all that is required for the Democrats to win back states like Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania -- and perhaps Ohio and Indiana -- in the fall of 2020. The party's nominee is still going to have to make a convincing case that she or he is prepared to respond to deindustrialization, automation, and all the other challenges faced by factory workers, historic manufacturing communities, and traditional industries.
But Sanders is making a smart start by refusing to surrender territory where Democrats once won presidential races -- and where a fighting Democratic Party could win again.