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Obama Wary of Battleground State Wisconsin, With Good Reason

By April 2, 2012

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In 2012, Wisconsin is the new political bellweather state. And despite having voted for every Democratic presidential candidate for nearly 30 years, Wisconsin is a crucial battleground state in 2012.

The first sign that Wisconsin had changed from solidly liberal to rife with Republican rivalry was when three-term incumbent Sen. Russ Feingold, a nationally respected progressive Democrat, was shockingly defeated in his 2010 reelection bid by Tea Party-affiliated, Libertarian-leaning Republican Ron Johnson, a political neophyte.

Also elected to Wisconsin office in 2010 was Tea Party gubernatorial candidate Scott Walker. Mere weeks after Gov. Walker, the son of a Baptist preacher, took office in January 2011, he pushed the newly conservative Wisconsin legislature to pass severe budget-cutting bills that also sharply curtailed basic labor union rights.

And Wisconsin progressives... who apparently took their state domination for granted in 2010 elections... reawakened with a ferocious political roar. A recall election for prickly Gov. Walker will be held on June 5, 2012, after more than 900,000 citizens petitioned to dump him from the state capitol. Recall of Walker was spearheaded by a passionate coalition of infuriated Wisconsinites, including:

Wisconsin is unique among 2012 presidential battleground states, though, for two reasons.

In 2012, Can Obama Win Wisconsin Again?
Wisconsin voters are largely white (86% per 2010 Census), and Christian (80%). Among state residents, only 5.9% are of Hispanic heritage, and only 6% are African-Americans.

Most hotly contested 2012 battleground states host an amalgam of ethnic heritages and religious faiths. Think Florida, with its highly diverse and active voter base, for example, or North Carolina, with its uneasy blend of religious conservatives and a sizable African-American population.

In 2008, Barack Obama won only 43% of the white vote nationally, but won 54% of Wisconsin's white vote, which represented 89% of all Wisconsin ballots. Can Obama win Wisconsin again in 2012, after the new rise of Badger State Republicans?

Will Wisconsin Republicans Continue to be Led by Extremists?
Have Wisconsin Republicans learned lessons from the failure of Gov. Scott Walker's ultra-conservative ideology and his stubbornly tin-ear to the Wisconsin electorate? Or will Wisconsin Republicans continue to be dominated by Tea Party extremists?

If socially conservative, Tea-Partiers continue to lead Wisconsin Republicans, then extremist Rick Santorum should fare well in tomorrow's presidential primary election. The Obama White House would be delighted, of course.

But, if, as polls predict, more moderate Mitt Romney easily prevails in Wisconsin's presidential primary race, then Obama's reelection campaign team should be forewarned about 2012: Wisconsin Republicans have backed away from political extremism, and are ready to support a more moderate candidate with a bona-fide chance to beat President Obama.

Historically Democratic blue-state Wisconsin stunned the nation in 2010 by not reelecting deeply respected Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold.

A big primary victory by moderate Republican Mitt Romney over Tea Party-aficionado Rick Santorum in Wisconsin will send a warning shot to the White House that must-win Wisconsin might vote Republican in 2012 for the first time since 1984.

In 2011, a top pollster reported Wisconsin's approval for President Obama at 47.4%, and his disapproval rating at 43.8%. To win Wisconsin over a moderate Republican, Obama will need to raise his approval ratings in 2012.


April 10, 2012 at 10:42 am
(1) Jeremiah says:

I am reminded of a long-time Colorado politician who, upon being bested by a political upstart at her county assembly, dismissed the handful of people who voted for the other person as “blips on a much larger radar screen.” Never call people who vote for another candidate or political party names (e.g., “extremists”) for if you do they will remember your slight and pay you back in spades at the next election. All those people who voted for Scott Walker did so for a reason. They are Wisconsonites too and deserve our respect.

August 14, 2012 at 3:22 pm
(2) Zach says:

I respect your comment Jeremiah! To the author, you would do well to learn from what Jeremiah posted. Your post makes it sound like you wish to disregard the vast majority that allowed Scott Walker to remain in office. Apparently the fiscal strength of a state is more important to some people than labor rights, and you shouldn’t demonize them for disagreeing with your liberal politics. Not everyone is an extremist, or tea party-er. If we applied your definition to Scott Walker’s supporters, the majority of the state would be “extremist”.

And how fun it is to look back in time and see now that there wasn’t a failure of “Scott Walker’s conservative ideology”. He won his recall election with leaps and bounds, and still some room to spare.

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