Scott Bauer
Covering Wisconsin politics and news
sbauerAPsbauer@ap.org

Kleefisch used to believe Biden won Wisconsin, now won’t say

February 17, 2022 GMT
FILE - Former Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch announces her candidacy for office of Governor at Western States Envelope Company in Butler, Wis., Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021.  Kleefisch said five months ago that President Joe Biden won Wisconsin, but now she is dodging the question while awaiting the results of pending Republican-led investigations into the 2020 election. Kleefisch’s change in position on Biden’s win comes as other Republican candidates in the governor’s race have questioned the win and one, state Rep. Timothy Ramthun, has tried unsuccessfully to award the state’s Electoral College votes to Donald Trump. (John Hart/Wisconsin State Journal via AP, File)
FILE - Former Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch announces her candidacy for office of Governor at Western States Envelope Company in Butler, Wis., Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021.  Kleefisch said five months ago that President Joe Biden won Wisconsin, but now she is dodging the question while awaiting the results of pending Republican-led investigations into the 2020 election. Kleefisch’s change in position on Biden’s win comes as other Republican candidates in the governor’s race have questioned the win and one, state Rep. Timothy Ramthun, has tried unsuccessfully to award the state’s Electoral College votes to Donald Trump. (John Hart/Wisconsin State Journal via AP, File)
FILE - Former Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch announces her candidacy for office of Governor at Western States Envelope Company in Butler, Wis., Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021.  Kleefisch said five months ago that President Joe Biden won Wisconsin, but now she is dodging the question while awaiting the results of pending Republican-led investigations into the 2020 election. Kleefisch’s change in position on Biden’s win comes as other Republican candidates in the governor’s race have questioned the win and one, state Rep. Timothy Ramthun, has tried unsuccessfully to award the state’s Electoral College votes to Donald Trump. (John Hart/Wisconsin State Journal via AP, File)
FILE - Former Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch announces her candidacy for office of Governor at Western States Envelope Company in Butler, Wis., Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021. Kleefisch said five months ago that President Joe Biden won Wisconsin, but now she is dodging the question while awaiting the results of pending Republican-led investigations into the 2020 election. Kleefisch’s change in position on Biden’s win comes as other Republican candidates in the governor’s race have questioned the win and one, state Rep. Timothy Ramthun, has tried unsuccessfully to award the state’s Electoral College votes to Donald Trump. (John Hart/Wisconsin State Journal via AP, File)
FILE - Former Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch announces her candidacy for office of Governor at Western States Envelope Company in Butler, Wis., Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021. Kleefisch said five months ago that President Joe Biden won Wisconsin, but now she is dodging the question while awaiting the results of pending Republican-led investigations into the 2020 election. Kleefisch’s change in position on Biden’s win comes as other Republican candidates in the governor’s race have questioned the win and one, state Rep. Timothy Ramthun, has tried unsuccessfully to award the state’s Electoral College votes to Donald Trump. (John Hart/Wisconsin State Journal via AP, File)

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Republican gubernatorial candidate Rebecca Kleefisch said five months ago that President Joe Biden won Wisconsin, but on Thursday she dodged the question while awaiting the results of pending GOP-led investigations into the 2020 election.

Kleefisch’s change in position on Biden’s win comes as other Republican candidates in the governor’s race have questioned the win and one, state Rep. Timothy Ramthun, has tried unsuccessfully to award the state’s Electoral College votes to Donald Trump.

Biden won Wisconsin by just under 21,000 votes, an outcome that has withstood recounts, lawsuits, an audit by the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau and a review by the conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty. An Associated Press review of battleground states found far too few confirmed cases of fraud to tip the election for Trump, whose own attorney general has disputed the fraud claims.

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But some Republicans, urged by Trump, have questioned the outcome in Wisconsin and supported an ongoing investigation by former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman. Ramthun, along with Assembly elections committee chair Rep. Janel Brandtjen, have also embraced conspiracy theories about widespread voter fraud in Wisconsin.

Ramthun has tried unsuccessfully to rescind the awarding of Wisconsin’s 10 Electoral College votes to Biden, a move that the Legislature’s nonpartisan attorneys have said is not legal. Republican Assembly leaders have also blocked Ramthun’s attempts. Speaker Robin Vos on Thursday said decertifying Biden’s win is “unconstitutional and impossible to achieve.”

Vos also said he didn’t know if the review he ordered that Gableman is leading will make a determination about who won the election.

Kleefisch said in a September 2021 interview on WISN-TV’s “UpFront” was asked point blank if she thought Biden had won Wisconsin.

“I do,” she said.

On Thursday, Kleefisch was asked on WTMJ-AM whether she thought Trump had won Wisconsin. This time, she did not provide a direct answer.

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“I think right now, we have two ongoing investigations to make that determination,” Kleefisch said. “One under Michael Gableman, one under Janel Brandtjen, I am watching in real time live with you what those audits are yielding.”

Kleefisch’s campaign spokesman Alec Zimmerman argued that her position hasn’t changed.

“Yes he was declared the winner in Wisconsin,” Zimmerman said of Biden. “The question is whether he won fairly or not. That she cannot say.”

Another Republican candidate for governor, Kevin Nicholson, also appeared on WTMJ on Thursday and was asked if Trump had won Wisconsin. And like Kleefisch, he did not give a direct answer.

“I think the 2020 election was a mess,” Nicholson said. “It was a stinky, smelly mess. ... So out of this heaping mess, ballot harvesting and all this other stuff that happened, Joe Biden was declared the winner. And that’s the way it is.”

The winner of the Aug. 9 primary will advance to face Democratic Gov. Tony Evers.

“Rebecca Kleefisch is continuing to divide Wisconsinites, even if it means reversing her position to embrace radical theories now that she’s facing a tough primary, said Evers campaign spokesman Sam Roecker. “We know Wisconsin’s elections were fair, secure, and accurate, but politicians like Rebecca Kleefisch will say whatever it takes to appeal to the extremes of their party.”