The Wisconsin Battleground

The best political journalist in Wisconsin, Craig Gilbert, takes the temperature of Wisconsin and finds both sides ready fro battle and expecting victory in November:

However you rank the state, both sides agree it has become a much more alluring target for Republicans, because of Ryan’s selection and because of the massive upside of flipping Wisconsin from blue to red: it gives Romney many more paths to an electoral majority. Without Wisconsin, Romney has to win almost all the key contested states. If Romney loses Ohio, where he has trailed in the polls, winning Wisconsin is a virtual necessity.

The Ryan effect

While it’s widely assumed that Ryan’s home-state impact was not the driving factor in his selection by Romney, Madison-based Democratic pollster Paul Maslin questions that. “I think they wanted to put Wisconsin in play, and so far they’ve done it,” said Maslin, who also polls for Ryan’s Democratic congressional opponent, Rob Zerban. “You can’t ignore that, because without Wisconsin they have … no room for error.” At a panel here organized by the National Journal, a group of Democratic pollsters was asked which handful of states they envision the presidential candidates visiting on the crucial last day of campaigning this November. Democratic pollster Celinda Lake named Ohio, Colorado and Wisconsin. “What’s interesting is that Wisconsin has gotten more into play because of Ryan on the ticket,” she said. Asked if the state’s competitiveness surprised her, Lake said: “Not if you went through the recall of Scott Walker as we did with labor. It’s a very swing state.”

Fool’s gold?

Some Democrats in Charlotte argue Wisconsin is a political mirage for Republicans that will once again prove elusive for their presidential ticket. “I hope they spend quite a bit of time trying to win a state like Wisconsin that we won by 14 points (last time) … because that means they won’t be putting their resources elsewhere. Because we’re going to win Wisconsin,” said Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

Zero to 100 in a flash

In fact, neither candidate has truly committed their resources to Wisconsin so far. Both sides tout their field organizations in the state. But Wisconsin wasn’t a consensus top-tier battleground until recently, and neither candidate has targeted the state in his TV advertising. Democrats have pointed to the lack of television ads by Romney as a sign Republican aren’t fully sold on their chances of winning the state. Republicans have pointed to Obama’s personal absence from the state (only one visit this year) to suggest Democrats are taking Wisconsin for granted. But all that’s expected to change soon. “You’re not gong to see us spare a whole lot” in Wisconsin, RNC chairman Priebus said of his home state. “By the time we get to November, they’ll see plenty of the President,” former senator Russ Feingold, a co-chair of the Obama campaign, said of Wisconsin voters. “I don’t think anyone is going to see it as being taken for granted.”

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