For much of the Wisconsin Republican gubernatorial primary, former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch was the clear frontrunner and presumed nominee, four years after she and Gov. Scott Walker were defeated for a third term in 2018 by Democrat Tony Evers. After serving as Walker’s No. 2 and surviving the 2012 recall election, she had long been seen as a rising star in the state and in the GOP, especially during a time when the party still needs more women in top positions.

But the dynamics of the race changed once wealthy construction executive Tim Michels joined the race in April, pledging to self-fund and only accept individual donations of $500 or less. At the end of June, reports showed that Michels had given his campaign $7.9 million of his own money. Starting with far less name ID than Kleefisch, he began to gather momentum with his heavy ad spending, and in June, earned the most coveted endorsement a Republican can secure in the primary — that of former President Trump.

Michels has portrayed himself as the true outsider

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