The last time a Republican presidential candidate won Wisconsin was in 1984, the year President Reagan swept every state except Minnesota. But last night showed that Wisconsin is once again in play, despite Obama’s decisive 14-point victory in 2008. Both the Romney and Obama campaigns are now eyeing Wisconsin as a swing state, and Romney now plans to campaign there aggressively:
Obama’s team, which has been on the ground organizing but hasn’t spent money on advertising for months, signaled this week that it believed the state had grown more competitive. In May, campaign manager Jim Messina had said Wisconsin was trending toward the president. By Monday, he was listing Wisconsin as “undecided.”
Romney now plans to compete in the state aggressively, looking to capitalize on the Republican momentum that carried Walker to victory. His team considers Wisconsin a top target, along with Florida, Ohio and Virginia, and more attractive than even Romney’s native Michigan, where the campaign had hoped to establish an Upper Midwest beachhead.
“The close vote on Tuesday confirms that Wisconsin will be a swing state,” said Republican strategist Terry Nelson, an adviser to George W. Bush.
Last night’s exit polls still showed Obama with a double-digit lead. But they also showed Walker and his opponent Tom Barrett in a dead-heat, when Walker actually won the race by seven points — raising doubts about the accuracy of the exit polling.
Republicans may also have the ground game on their side. The Democratic Party relies heavily on unions to organize on the ground, but if Big Labor couldn’t get out the vote for Barrett against Walker — public enemy #1 for unions — they’ll likely also have trouble rallying support for Obama, whose relationship with the unions has been shaky at times.
Not only were Wisconsin Republicans able to out-organize the unions, they’re also passing this on-the-ground support directly to the Romney campaign, Politico reports:
The flip side: Republicans end the showdown more motivated than ever. Conservatives have arguably their best ground operation in place of any of the 50 states — and it’s all going to be transferred to Romney.
A Republican National Committee official confirmed the two dozen Walker campaign offices would immediately be converted into Romney working space as soon as later this week.
Romney’s Wisconsin co-chair, former State Sen. Ted Kanavas, said the campaign has already taken lessons from Walker’s well-oiled early vote effort and targeting tactics.
“We’re going to try to leverage everything that was learned and apply it to November,” he said.
Add that to the massive energy boost the Walker victory gave Republicans, as well as the signal that independent voters are receptive to Walker’s reform message, and these are promising signs for Romney next November.