Milwaukee, Wisconsin (CNN) - His campaign thought Wisconsin's 10 electoral votes were in the bag long ago, but President Barack Obama's trip here Saturday is the latest indicator that both sides believe the Badger State has become a toss-up.
The president touches down in the state Saturday for the first time in more than 200 days, set to attend two fund-raisers that will net his campaign more than $600,000 as well as an evening rally at a large amphitheater on the banks of Lake Michigan.
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“It is great to be back in Milwaukee,” Obama said to an enthusiastic crowd at the evening rally, taking the stage 30 minutes early as rain clouds moved in above. “I don’t see a lot of victims here today,” he added later, “I see a lot of hardworking Wisconsinites.”
While Obama carried the state by a commanding 14 points in 2008 and has been up in the polls here for most of the year, the Romney campaign long ago eyed Wisconsin as a potential obstacle for the president in his re-election effort. Romney officials opened more than 20 field offices throughout the state and have injected hundreds of thousands in advertising dollars in recent weeks.
Should Obama lose the state's 10 electoral votes, the Romney campaign's now-narrow path to victory suddenly gets some much-needed breathing room.
Moreover, Republican officials point out, much has changed in Wisconsin since 2008. After the manufacturing-heavy economy was hit particularly hard by the recession, Wisconsinites overwhelmingly elected conservative Scott Walker as governor in 2010.
Walker, who campaigned heavily on a plank of significant spending cuts, faced a recall election a year later largely fueled by unions and the state Democratic Party. But Obama notably kept his distance from the recall effort, wary that a Walker win would be portrayed as an Obama loss if the president injected his name into the battle.
Walker ultimately survived the recall - a result that some Wisconsin Democrats grumbled could have gone the other way if the president had flexed his muscle. Now, Republicans are hoping lingering hard feelings among local Democrats could hinder Obama's prospects in the state.
As for the Obama campaign, aides say they have long prepared for a hard fight, despite the fact that the president has not visited the state since February and has only recently gone up on the airwaves with television ads.
"We've always thought Wisconsin would be harder for us this year than it was four years ago," said Jen Psaki, a campaign spokeswoman.
Meanwhile, Obama campaign manager Jim Messina attributed the stronger-than-expected Romney performance here to a better ground game than that executed by the McCain campaign four years ago.
“They are stronger than McCain was in '08, no question, on the ground,” he told reporters Saturday. “But we continue to have a strategic advantage.”
Still, the president enjoyed a double-digit lead in the state for much of the year, even as the Romney campaign was forcefully ramping up its effort.
Then came the surprising pick of Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan as Mitt Romney's running mate. What was once a double-digit lead dwindled to low single digits almost overnight.
While Obama maintains a small but significant lead here (CNN's average of recent polls show him with a 9-point advantage), Republicans are quick to point out his long absence from the state.
"Obama is headed to Milwaukee after ignoring the state for 220 days," said Republican National Committee spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski. "Some things have changed since he's been gone, including a massive GOP ground game making over a million voter contacts."
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George W. Bush inherited a strong economy, a budget surplus, and a nation at peace.
Eight years later, he left Obama with a shattered economy, a trillion dollar deficit, and two useless wars.
Obama saved the country from another Great Depression, rebuilt GM, reformed healthcare, reformed Wall Street, doubled the stock market, created 12 straight quarters of GDP growth, created 30 straight months of private sector job growth, got Bin Laden, got Gaddafi, and got us out of Iraq.
And now with the automatic spending cuts and the expiration of the Bush tax cuts in 2012, Obama has solved the deficit problem as well.
Obama has done a very good job.
Hey – Romney's never been anywhere near my state (oh – and that's just fine by me)
... 47% will vote for BO & JOE, even when they both show their horns ...
... ... 47% will vote for R/R because they are NOT BO & JOE ...
... ... ... 4% will vote for the miscellaneous candidates, usually named Clyde or Clem or something ...
... ... ... ... 2% will decide the election ...
But it doesn't really matter ...
A house divided against itself cannot stand ...
Stock up, my pets ...
I think he should try to put Arizona back in play. The latest poll showed him down only 3 points there. Take Wash, Ore, Cal, Az, Nmex and Colo and you have a stranglehold. Make Mitt waste his money.
Obama leads by 3, 5, 6, 7, and 14 points in the five most recent polls. Is he really worried or just making a ball fake to keep RomneyBain spending time and resources in WI?
A nation that is not accelerating upward … is weakening and falling behind … soon eaten by the wolves …
Our great-grandchildren will live in poverty, perhaps slavery … after the bankruptcy … but we must admit, it was a great ride for America … wasn’t it …
In years to come, each side will still be blaming the other … believing only they knew the formula to avoid the crash …
Don’t be concerned – we lost the fight nearly 80-years ago …
If Obama loses the world loses
Romney is making inroads everywhere. He will sweep through the mid-west and on to victory. Mr. Obama's attempts to distract voters have failed. The polls are trending in Mitt's favor. Despite all of the attacks on Mitt he is tied in Rasmussen and in Gallup. He has bounced back from the Democratic convention and is rolling on. This IS a referendum on Mr. Obama and his disastrous policies that have increased our debt, not helped unemployment and have lessened our influence in the world. Mitt will win 2012!!!
So the President has to check in on a state every week or something? Wisconsin is run by morons, ie, Republicans. Should be an easy choice for voters.
Everywhere he "stumps" is a battleground. Most of the country hates him, but he (and his blind followers) just won't accept it.
Great Job Obama. You represent all Americans including those who do not vote for you.
Romney has already written off half of the country.
The Repubs left this country in an economic diaster and two wars and now they are complaining that he did not clean it up fast enough.
Bye Bye Mittens "Juan Percent"
What campaign have you been watching, reporter for CNN? From all accounts, Wisconsin started as a swing state. The Dems actually felt they lost it somewhat when Ryan was chose, and then realized through recent polls that Wisconsin is still a tossup. It was never really considered 'in the bag', with Republicans touting Scott Walker and his successful survival of the recall and with the addition of Ryan to the ticket.
Then the Republicans started screwing up, Tammy Baldwin started gaining on and then surpassed Tommy Thompson in the Senate race and made that close, and -then- the Republicans decided 'Oh maybe we should toss some money from our Super PAC advertizing at it'. Obama has seen an opening, and I believe it's reflective of a national trend. They're taking advantage of slipups and will truly put Wisconsin in the blue.
Oh Rush! You finally agree with me? You too think that our POTUS has the kinds of divine attributes wherin he can still the waters, manipulate weather conditions....etc....If this is the case, you should be genuflecting to him, and be on your knees in worship to him. Yeah,you are right still. Its the POTUS who run things!
I watched President Obama on c-span, he was great but if you voters do not send him independents or democrats, he will be blackmailed by Tea party right winger republicans for what they want in a bill then they refuse to vote for it.
Voters:::::: a vote for a republican senator or congressman in any state is a vote for Tea party right wing filibuster senator mcconnell and rep Ryan, Cantor etc, all the Republicans march in lockstep with their leaders, verify votes on
C-span.org for your senators/rep. 40 senators republicans voted against a jobs bill for veterans, only 4 for., do not believe what republicans or their advertisement by Crossroads/ Rove and other super pacs say. There are about 600 super pacs funded by unidentified donors(a lot from 22 millionaires/billionaires and multi national corps.(who ship our jobs overseas, they are buying your senate/rep seats for the wealthy. 75% of super pac money(crossroads/Rove, American prosperity/Wisconsin Walker and tea party supporter , multi national corporation chamber of commerce and others has been used to flood the airways with lies/halftruths against democrats.
I hope the people from Wisconsin wise up. It used to be known as a progressive, forward thinking state. Then they elected Scott Walker, highly paid mouthpiece and wh*re for the Koch brothers.
The special interests, like the Koch Brothers, are pouring literally MILLIONS into negative advertising to attack Democratic candidates for state offices. People have to catch on quick, and ask where all those glossy, simplistic ads are coming from.
Not a surprise...Wisconsin has been a toss-up state for some time now. Obama has only recently opened up a lead over 5 points.
Recent polls show the opposite happening here in AZ – we are now a swing state with only a 3 point spread between Romney and Obama here now – the difference between them is only the amount for a margin of error
The press has out done itself in running nothing but anti-Romney articles. But for the majority of Americans who don't believe what the press has to say, they are just driving us further from their influence. The only ones listening to the liberal press are the liberals. The majority that is fed up with robbing our children and grand children will still turn out in mass in 2012 just like they did in 2010. Hopefully, those who support spending money on things we can't afford will think twice and not vote for this President or his liberal colleagues.
The polls had the governor trailing too, he won handily. The polls are reflecting whatever the pollsters want them to, and the MSM goes out of it's way to solicit more Dems than Republicans or independents.
These polls mean nothing more than an attempt to move public opinion. They typically over sample democrats by 10% to 15% to produce the results the pollsters prefer.
if i lived in wisconsin, i'd vote for obama, but since i live in iowa, i'll do it here.
9 points ahead is SMALL – what would you call a large margin. Even Sarah Palin carried her own state in 2008 – seems that Ryan can't even carry his own state.
stay out of the south ... no votes there ....
Romney's "Independent Voter Research" robo-calls have been polling me every other day here in Madison for several months. Classic definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome. No, Mr. Romney, I will not vote for you, no matter how much money you and the Koch brothers spend in Wisconsin.