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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Obama is worried, very, very worried and quite rightly!
"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."
Since when did a 5.8% margin of victory (52.3%-46.5%) come to be considered "overwhelming"? By that standard, what would Obama's 13.9% WI margin in 2008 qualify as? Sounds like those unnamed Republican officials are trying to rewrite history once again...
Where is Joe Biden? Anyone seen him since the convention?
For the first time i think, i'm actually afraid for this country in the upcoming elections.
Battleground shamatelground no way the Dems lose Wisconsin, the state already has buyers remorse on walker post recall.
NObama, the only way to go.
I have never hear Ryan say anything since he join the race than to talk against Obama. He has never say anything to do as V/P than to talk. The best position for him is to run the post of a police officer. Anytime he is talking you will see hatered for blks all over him.
This is the reason why most Cubans and Cuban-Americans in the U.S. vote Republican.
The rhetoric has always been "Stay tough on the Castro regime, that's the way to bring it down" or "No business with communists" . This is such a farce; we won't do business with Cuba (90 miles from the U.S.)because it's communist but
we import almost everything from China which is also Communist and thousand of miles away.
The truth is the Republican Cuban Politicos in this country would not have any political power if Communism disappeared from Cuba. They have power because of this blockade they want to continue. And BTW I'm Cuban (and one of the few that think this BS through) and the word for that Cuban coffee drink is Colada not "Colatta" LOL
It is really disingenuous for Bill Clinton to claim that he balanced the budget when in office and for Obama to claim Bill Clinton's success. Neither one of them built that.
How many recall the Tech Bubble that developed during the Clinton years? When there are living wage jobs that are taxable, the tax revenue goes up. Clinton happened to have more tax revenue than the Federal Government had budgeted to spend.
So get real people. It's American ingenuity that creates wealth, not government. What little growth we are having now is due to the audacity of the American People. Again Obama is showing up to take credit for other peoples work. And Clinton needs to called out for his claim of balancing the budget.
The GOP has been ignoring/ screwing retirees and the middle class since the last congressional elections.
Republicans blame the President for spending time on the campaign trail, and then turn around and blame him for not campaigning enough. Typical.
They're not Wisconsinites, they're Badgers.
Hello Everyone are we going to do the RIGHT thing and VOTE NO to OBAMA and his team of incompetents...I mean how much more DISASTER do we need...DEBT at $16 Trillion, Gas prices over $4:00 doubled since OBAMA took office, Unemployment over 8 %...actually close to 20%, Inflation is rising I just paid over $3:00 for a gallon of milk here in California in 2008 it was under $2:00!!!...enough already....more teacher strikes so our kids can be even more ignorant.....WAKE UP people lets vote these fools out
You're wrong, Mr. President, we are ALL victims – of your incompetence and lack of leadership. You fooled me 4 years ago; you won't again. You've done one thing right in 4 years – campaign and crack jokes. For the first time in my lifetime I see Americans full of hatred for other Americans, and a president who has absolutely no ability to work with members of the opposite party. I have my doubts about Romney. But, I have none about you. You are inept, and professorial talk doesn't do it for me any more.
....my husbands peps in Wisconsin better wake the uped and realize who butters thez bread.
There is no free lunch living on Gov't Plantation. Us'z need to get out this Nov and pull that lever correctly...or else w'z cutting off your free gov't cheese.
I've got to go plan my next taxpayer funded vacation. Talk to you all soon.
My god CNN a 9 point lead is not low single digits until you make the worst case scenario from the " margin of error"
ie deducting sam from Omama and adding ot romney Ryan QED up to 4.25% margin of error still is a win.
Wisconsin will vote Obama.
Give em hell Obama. Fight the power! We will not forget 8 years of the "decider". We will not stand for bull$h!t mountain. Google the facts stand against faux news. May the forces of evil fall to the greater good. Die Gop!
He gets my vote THIS time, too!!!
The September Jobs Report will sink obama.
Why doesn't this president get back to work. Even though I think whatever he does turns to crap with his ideology, I think it is disgusting that he is being standoffish with what is going on in the middle east. And the fact that he flew off to Vegas for a campaign stop 24 hours after the murder of one of his ambassadors is unbelievable. His record should be his only campaign. This whole season makes me sick and gives me very little hope for the future of this country.
Obama can only be in so many places at a time. I want him fixing the internal problems in Washington and lobbying for us! I'm sure our president wants all of US to be successful so that the IRS have more money to collect, thus, have more money to disburse.. If our president visits a city or not, if not the issue. The bigger issue of how our president will streamline the Government to stop spending and bullying in the courts so that Americans invest in each other so the economy improves. If frivolous lawsuits stop, and bullying to pay someone else's debt, will help increase investment into America.
Going to a state is not the essence of the politician. Giving us our freedoms and protecting us from economic harm, is what our president needs to do for each one us. Protecting Giving social services is a must when corporate greed and corporation is mainstream.
GANGSTER GOVERNMENT – look it up. If you vote Obama back in, you deserve what you get. The problem is you are going to take us all down with you. How many poor or middle class has O helped since being in office. NONE! But I bet he and his cronies have gotten rich – he's buying a $35 million house in Hawaii – look it up. Too many people are being fooled by this liberal media.
I used to wish Obama would be a good thing for America, but that was before his disastrous and corrupt first-term performance, and before I really knew anything about him. I should have clued in up front because of his choice of vice president. I already knew Joe Biden was an empty suit, so I'm disappointed in myself for not recognizing what that clearly poor choice said about candidate Obama.
CNN won't report this, but Biden said today (in a public address) that we had 650,000 troops still in Afghanistan. He really has no clue how large our armed forces are, and indeed, most things are too difficult for him to either remember or comprehend. One of his aides claimed afterward that he had really meant to say 68,000 (which is the correct number, I believe).
Univision is the only news organization so far to ask BOTH candidates tough questions. Why is that? And there's the second clue I should have gotten four years ago, because the MSM did the SAME THING then – Obama got a pass on literally everything, and no serious looks into his past and how his belief structure was formulated over the years.
Now we know. And this time we'll make a better decision.
Where is the Vice President, Joe Biden? Should we file a missing person report? He is the VP after all, 1st in line to the Presidency.
It's hard to believe that Wisconsin, at one time was a progressive state how they could vote for Scott Walker or Paul Ryan, is beyond me.