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Trump, Sanders set to bring populist messages to Wisconsin

Two outsiders who have upended their parties’ 2016 presidential nominating contests are bringing their populist messages to Wisconsin over the next few days.

Real estate mogul and Republican front-runner Donald Trump has scheduled an event Tuesday in Janesville, and Democratic candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont is holding a rally in Madison today as caucuses take place in three other states.

Both candidates have drawn huge crowds over the past year, but Trump events have been at times chaotic with coordinated disruptions from anti-Trump protesters and retaliation from Trump supporters.

In one high-profile case, a Trump supporter sucker-punched a protester being escorted out by police. At another event, a protester rushed the stage while Trump spoke. And earlier this month, a rally in Chicago was canceled at the last minute, leading to bouts of shouting and shoving.

Trump has faced criticism for his violent rhetoric against protesters and stoking the tension.

Trump’s campaign website says he plans to speak at the Janesville Conference Center at 3 p.m. Tuesday. The center referred questions about capacity to the Trump campaign, which didn’t respond. The center’s 15,000-square-foot main ballroom would likely have a maximum capacity in the 2,500-3,000 range, based on city building regulations.

Janesville is the hometown of House Speaker Paul Ryan, who offered veiled criticism of Trump on Wednesday.

Immigrant rights group Voces de la Frontera is planning to protest outside the Trump event on Tuesday, operations director Primitivo Torres said. He said the group still is discussing whether or not to cause disruptions inside the event. Trump’s rise in the polls last year came as he referred to immigrants coming into the country illegally as rapists and murderers.

“We are urging the local authorities there that they should have a plan for public safety,” Torres said.

Janesville Deputy Police Chief John Olsen said the department has experience policing events at the conference center, including a March 2011 event featuring Gov. Scott Walker in the wake of the Act 10 protests.

He didn’t say what kind of special accommodations would be needed for the Trump event, but he said he would be reviewing measures taken in other states.

“We’ll just be responsible for making it a safe event for Mr. Trump and those attending and the general public,” Olsen said.

Walker told reporters Thursday that the state would offer the same law enforcement protection for a Trump rally or a Sanders rally that it has in the past for large events.

“At this point, we’re just appreciative that Wisconsin is relevant in both primaries, both on the Republican and Democrat side,” Walker said. “We’ve had a lot of attention in the past, not just in the presidential race, but to various issues we’ve debated here in the state in the past. We’ve been able to do it without major incident and I would expect the same would be true between now and the primary.”

Sanders in Madison

Sanders is planning his event this afternoon at the Alliant Energy Center, according to his campaign. Washington, Alaska and Hawaii will be holding Democratic nominating contests today, so Wisconsin will serve as the backdrop for Sanders’ election day speech. Wisconsin hosts the next primary on April 5.

Sanders is trailing front-runner Hillary Clinton in the delegate count, and national political observers view Wisconsin as a potential last stand for his campaign.

The event at the center’s exhibition hall is expected to draw 9,000 people, according to Robert Dempsey, state political director for the Sanders campaign. Sanders rallied nearly 10,000 people at the Dane County Coliseum in July, one of the early signs that the Sanders campaign might have momentum.

Dempsey acknowledged today’s event might not draw as many people because it will take place the day before Easter while many UW-Madison students are still on spring break.

Clinton has yet to announce plans for a visit to the state. Her daughter Chelsea visited Madison, Milwaukee and Waukesha on Thursday.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz made his first stop in Wisconsin prior to the April 5 vote on Wednesday in Pewaukee and also made stops in Dane and Janesville on Thursday.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich held a town hall meeting Wednesday in Wauwatosa with about 400 people and attended a private fundraiser in Milwaukee on Tuesday night. He has scheduled town hall events Monday in West Salem and Madison.

Cruz has touted himself as the only candidate capable of stopping Trump based on his delegate count, while Kasich says he is the only one who can beat Clinton in the general election based on national head-to-head polls.