President Barack Obama is going to win the key battleground state of Wisconsin in two weeks.During the three days I spent in the Milwaukee, Green Bay and Rock County areas, Democrats expressed optimism — caution, but clear optimism — that Obama will win the state. In my estimate, they’re right.
Despite increased speculation that Mitt Romney could win Wisconsin, the state and its 10 electoral votes have been steadily trending Obama’s way for quite some time now, and Romney hasn’t led a poll there since August.
That fact, plus Wisconsin’s electoral history — it hasn’t voted for a Republican since 1984 — has led Republicans to doubt Romney’s chances of winning the state.
In Paul Ryan’s Janesville neighbourhood, Secret Service warning barricades line the streets to get to his home. One woman, who identified herself as Republican, lamented that she didn’t think barricades would remain up too much longer.
A few doors down from Ryan’s house, Michal Lattomus, a lifelong Republican, talked up the Romney-Ryan ticket’s “honesty,” and praised the candidates’ plan for turning around the country’s economy, but she wasn’t convinced that it will be enough to turn Wisconsin red this year.
Lattomus pointed to the state’s polls.
“There’s less of a distance,” in the polls, she said. “But there still is … quite a bit of distance.”
One factor she noted was Romney’s “47 per cent” comments, which are being played basically on loop in a brutal radio ad.
“They really killed him for a while here, and they probably still are and will continue to,” Lattomus said.
The other big reason Obama is in good shape is that, in general, outlook on the economy is improving.
Take the town of Janesville, for example. In addition to being Ryan’s hometown, it’s also a quintessential example of a U.S. city slammed by the recession. In 2009, its GM plant closed, a fact for which Obama (fairly or unfairly) has taken a good portion of the blame.
But when you drive through Janesville and talk to just about anyone, there is surprisingly fresh optimism on every side of the political aisle. Nearly four years after the plant closed, Janesville has diversified its economy around education and manufacturing. Its unemployment rate, which ballooned after the plant closed, has dropped 4.5 points in just more than two years.
And Republicans optimistic, too.
“There is a draw for businesses to come in and work here again,” said Jason Mielke, chair of the Rock County GOP. “We’re going to keep plodding along and making the place attractive. And we’re doing it.”
Bottom line: The brightening economic outlook and surging base optimism bode well for the incumbent.
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