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 anywhere but the Whitehouse.
While Obama maintains a small but significant lead here (CNN's average of recent polls show him with a 9-point advantage). Funny but Florida, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Missouri, Iowa, Michigan, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Virginia, North Carolina are all showing an upbeat towards President Obama. I don't see any movement towards Romney in any tossup state. Maybe after Romney does a sound trouncing in the debates. Ha! Ha! Keep up the notion that this really? a close contest. So much negative stuff comes out of the Romney campaign that it's hard to track of. Used to be about a couple times a months there would be a gaffe, then weekly, now it's almost every day Romney has something negative that he has to somehow spin. The electorate is laughing at him as he takes his lumps.
At the Univision Forum: While introducing Romney at the top of the broadcast, Salinas's co-anchor, Jorge Ramos, noted that the Republican candidate had agreed to give the network 35 minutes, and that Obama had agreed to a full hour the next night. Ramos then invited the audience to welcome Romney to the stage — but the candidate didn't materialize....
Apparently, Romney took issue with the anchors beginning the broadcast that way, said Salinas, and he refused to go on stage until they re-taped the introduction. (One Republican present at the taping said Romney "threw a tantrum.") Apparently to a partisan crowd that was bused in Romney couldn't appear Presidential and agree to the rules.
The GOP has only one agenda and that is to prevent the Obama re-election. Too bad they forgot that they should be working for ALL Americans. They deserve to lose.
You are one of our greatest presidents! God Bless you and keep you strong!
Is is ironic that Rubio is so impatient to get back to Washington to stop our govenrnment from operatiing that he has to voice his anger so publicly? And his inability to relax a bit and let the next plane catch up with his..is the same way the republicans want to take off early before the other 47% get a chance to catch the plane, so there a few minutes behind you...where is the inclusiveness that built this country?...can it be any more clear what a hypocrite this guy is?
Hmmm, Obama is ahead by 9 points in Wisconsin, so what is the purpose of this article? Forget it CNN, I don't llisten to your propaganda. Ronmey called be a dependent ingrate, he lost my vote, and CNN lost me as a viewer.
How ever will he recover without the WI vote?
They should all be battle grounds. Liberal and conservative enclaves should not dicate the slant of the state. The electoral college is a disservice to our system.
Obama will carry Wisconsin, no doubt.. He will carry all of Romney's home states, Michigan, Mass. , New Hampshire, California and of course lose Utah.. But who really cares about Utah.. The Cult state !
So, because the Wisconsin economy was hit hard by the recession that hit at the end of the Bush administration, Wisconsinites are going to vote for Romney in order to repeat all the policies that Bush supported? Because they're stupid? I don't think so.
Wisconsinites will not let their State be bought by “Romney money”! They know the difference between the R+R madness, GOP/TP obstructionist Congress where Ryan was a major force, a filibuster Senate and as presented by President Obama, a fair and workable future – for all! President Obama and a Democratic ticket 2012!!
How is this guy still being reported ahead in any state? No state should be a toss up, vote for America, vote for the one with a birth certifircate.
America just went pffft!
Nobody dependent on nothing the ways of independence
Obama may not be a good choice, but he's a better choice than Romney. And last night I watched penguins watching TV.
CNN continues to use Sound Off on articles that may be critical of Obama, so a mediator can cherry pick mostly favorable comments. Articles critical of Romney are a free for all with open comments, so any comment can be posted. Talk about biased reporting.
President Obama needs to keep the pressure on the Romney campaign all over, but Wisconsin is pretty solidly behind the President. Exit polling during the Walker recall showed that about 1/6 of Wisconsin voters were actually voting against the recall itself, and not for Walker.
While Walker won by 6%, those same voters supported Obama by 11%. Paul Ryan gave a little bump, but that's gone, and now his House seat is a toss-up after being a safe seat for a several elections.
It will be a great day when President Romney assume office.
CNN this is a flat out lie.... The race is so tight here.... Only gound Obama stumped was the stage he stood on with a few people in the crowd....
9 points is enough!
As usual the republicans are reaching. Obama is only ahead by 9 points....in their VP pick's home state. And what are they ahead in Romney's home states of Massachusetts and Michigan? When's the last time Romney did a rally in them?
Will net $600,000 for his campaign? Is this after expenses,(plane, personnel, etc.?
What a slanted story. After the conventions Paul Ryan's lead in his own district is down to single digits and has not compaigned there in months. he himself may have to find a real job after the elections. The more Wisconsin and the country knows about him, the less they like him. The Repubs and Koch brothers had to spend millions to keep walker but they lost the state Senate in recalls and the bill in the courts. So walker is a neutered puppy.
I don't understand...how the American public can vote to re-elect this idiot again!!
TIME TO WAKE UP AMERICA!!! In 4 years...he has done nothing except tear down american values and continues to
lean our great country to a European style of goverment. We can see that it will not work in america.
It was a great rally at the Summerfest grounds! The line to get in stretched around the Discovery Center past the Milwaukee Art Museum. The BMO Harris stage seats 5,000, and there were at least another 5,000 standing and in extra bleachers set up way in the back. For such a huge crowd, it was amazing how considerate everyone was, helping elderly attendees and making sure kids got to see the President. It rained, and no one cared. We are fired up and ready to go!