MILWAUKEE, Wis. — Everyone always talks about Ohio, as the most crucial state in this election, but more and more the buzz is that it could come down to Wisconsin.
To get a sense of just how unlikely it is that Wisconsin is at the forefront of the 2012 election’s battleground states, simply look back at the Badger State’s electoral college voting history since 1984.
For the better part of the last three decades, Wisconsin has been a reliably blue state.
But recent political events have thrown that status into question in the two marquee 2012 races here — the presidential election between President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney, and the Senate race between Democrat Tammy Baldwin and the state’s former Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson.
Wisconsin’s new battleground status has a lot to do with a profound rightward shift in the last two years, the result of growing discontent with the Obama administration and a coalescence of conservatives around Scott Walker, the state’s embattled Republican governor who survived this year’s unsuccessful recall election and is now a rising national star in the GOP.
Walker’s recall election victory was actually the first sign that Wisconsin might be in play for Romney in 2012. His rise has cemented — and, in some cases, codified — Wisconsin’s rightward shift. Over the past two years, the state’s voters have affirmed Walker’s union-busting budget cuts, ousted longtime Democratic Senator Russ Feingold in favour of Tea Party favourite Ron Johnson, and elected Republican majorities to both chambers of the statehouse.
Romney upped his chances of winning Wisconsin chances in July, when he selected native son Paul Ryan, a Congressman from Janesville, as his running mate. Ryan has given the Republican ticket a jolt in his home state, and several recent polls show the presidential race in a dead heat.
Here’s a look at where the polls stand, courtesy of Real Clear Politics:
Photo: Real Clear Politics
Winning Wisconsin could be instrumental for Romney to counter some daunting electoral-map maths. Consider:
- If Obama holds onto Wisconsin, all he has to do is hold onto Ohio and win one of Colorado, Iowa or Nevada to seal up the Electoral College victory.
- If Romney pulls off a win in Wisconsin, it means a more plausible path to victory. It also means he could afford a loss in Ohio as long as he wins Florida and Virginia.
Here’s a look at a possible map if Romney wins the Badger State:
The Wisconsin Senate race to fill the seat of retiring Democratic Senator Herb Kohl also has national implications, as both parties fight for control of the Senate in 2012.
Recent polls have shown Republican Thompson gaining on Baldwin, but the liberal congresswoman has so far been able to maintain her edge.
This weekend, I’ll be taking a look at the factors that are driving both races here — the voters, the counties, and the state’s changing political landscape. Follow along at @BrettLoGiurato for my coverage through Saturday.
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