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President Donald Trump speaks at Derco Aerospace on July 12, 2019. AP Photo/Alex Brandon President Donald Trump speaks at Derco Aerospace on July 12, 2019. AP Photo/Alex Brandon

President Donald Trump speaks at Derco Aerospace on July 12, 2019. AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Eric Litke
By Eric Litke July 15, 2019

Trump claims he won Wisconsin early in the evening in 2016. Not so much.

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly referenced the Fox News call time in Eastern Time. Fox called Wisconsin for Trump at 10:30 p.m. Central Time. This does not affect the rating of this claim.

Wisconsin was front and center on the national stage on Election Day 2016.

More exactly, on election night.

A key swing state, Wisconsin was a focal point for many networks as they tracked Donald Trump’s journey to an unexpected victory.

So it was surprising to hear Trump’s reference to that timeline in his most recent visit to our battleground state.

"I'm thrilled to be back in your great state — a state that I won," Trump said July 12, 2019, during a speech at Derco Aerospace where he touted the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement. "And we won it not so late in the evening — a little bit early in the evening, actually, which is even better."

Let’s turn back the clock and see how well Trump’s account matches reality.

Wisconsin on the back nine of poll closures

Any kind of "early" call for Wisconsin is tricky from the start given the number of states that are on Eastern Time. 

In that election, 27 states — more than half — had polls close before Wisconsin’s did at 8 p.m. Central Time, according to MSNBC.

Another 14 states closed at the same time as Wisconsin, and many of those did have relatively early calls. 

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The Associated Press — which has projected races since 1848 and is relied upon in this role by news organizations throughout the country — declared a winner in nine of those 14 states within two hours of the polls closing.

Calling Wisconsin

The AP didn’t call Wisconsin until hours later.

That’s not surprising given the final margin here was just over 22,748 votes, with Trump topping Democrat Hillary Clinton 47.2% to 46.5%, according to the Wisconsin Elections Commission.

The AP called the state for Trump at 1:29 a.m., releasing a bulletin at the same time saying Trump had exceeded 270 electoral votes and been elected president.

CNN had called Wisconsin one minute earlier, though at the time their projections still had Trump 13 electoral votes short of the presidency.

The outlier for Wisconsin projections was Fox News, which called the race for Trump at 10:30 p.m. on Election Day, some three-and-a-half hours after the polls closed. The other networks didn’t follow suit.

Even if you used 10:30 p.m. benchmark, Wisconsin was not among the "early" states. At that point, the AP had already projected winners in 38 other states and the District of Columbia.

Our ruling

Trump said he won Wisconsin "a little bit early in the evening" in 2016.

Fox News did project a Trump victory here by 10:30 p.m., but it was an outlier. The AP and CNN didn’t call Wisconsin for Trump until about 1:30 a.m.

And calling the Fox News projection "early" is a stretch anyhow, since about 80% of states had been called by that point.

We rate Trump’s claim False.

Our Sources

Wisconsin Elections Commission, Canvass Results for 2016 General Election, Dec. 22, 2016, Donald Trump, Remarks: Donald Trump on the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement in Milwaukee – July 12, 2019, July 12, 2019

Associated Press, Calling the presidential race state by state, Nov. 9, 2016, Fox News projects: Donald Trump wins Wisconsin, Iowa, Nov. 8, 2016, Trump wins Wisconsin, closes in on 270 electoral votes, Nov. 9, 2016, CNN, Nov. 9, 2016

MSNBC, Poll closing times for each state on Election Day 2016, Nov. 8, 2016


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Trump claims he won Wisconsin early in the evening in 2016. Not so much.

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