Kleefisch, Michels discuss Trump's influence in GOP primary race for governor

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MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- In the final countdown before Election Day, the top two candidates in the GOP primary race for governor weighed in on former President Donald Trump's influence in Wisconsin politics.

The matchup between former Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch and construction executive Tim Michels is the latest political battle between Donald Trump and his former number two Mike Pence who are supporting different candidates.

Trump endorsed Michels and held a rally Friday in Waukesha criticizing Kleefisch as a "career politician" who was "hand-picked" by the "failed establishment." Days earlier, Pence visited Pewaukee touting the "proven conservative" record and values Kleefisch has over her opponent.

On the campaign trail, Kleefisch downplayed Trump's endorsement telling reporters she doesn't know whether it will hurt or help Michels' campaign.

“To me, the only endorsements that are going to matter, ultimately, are the ones that are counted tomorrow night from the people of Wisconsin,” Kleefisch said.

Forty-nine percent of Republican voters believe the former President's endorsement wouldn't make a difference, 39% say they are more likely to vote for a candidate endorsed by Trump, according to a poll conducted by Emerson College.

While making a stop at the State Fair, Michels tells CBS 58 he doesn't think Trump's support will backfire on his campaign.

"I'm excited about the validation Trump has given my candidacy," Michels said. "He sees in himself as an outsider, a non-politician, someone who didn't have to run for president -- same thing for me."

The face-off between Kleefisch and Michels sets up a showdown between the Scott Walker era of politics vs. the Trump anti-establishment party.

Tuesday's primary election will be a test to see how much grip Trump still has on Wisconsin voters after losing by nearly 21,000 votes to President Joe Biden in 2020.

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