Has Ryan Put Wisconsin In Play?

Less than a week after Paul Ryan was announced as Mitt Romney’s running mate, CNN is moving the state into the “toss up” category thanks to new polling:

(CNN) - CNN Thursday turned the important battleground state of Wisconsin from “lean Obama” to true “toss up” on its electoral map, in the wake of Mitt Romney’s naming of House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, a seven term congressman from the Badger state, as his running mate.

One contributing factor behind CNN’s move was a new poll that matched two others from last week that indicate that the presidential contest in Wisconsin is close. While Ryan’s announcement did not dramatically alter the presidential poll numbers in Wisconsin, it did change the way both campaigns viewed the state of the race in the state.

“Both campaigns see the Ryan pick as something that makes Wisconsin more competitive. When we visited this week, every Republican we spoke to suggested it would help keep a Republican base already energized by the recent recall election fired up and hungry for more in November.” said CNN Chief National Correspondent John King.

“And we saw the impact on the Obama campaign firsthand. Within hours they rewrote their script for calls to voters to add some sharp criticism of Ryan and his Medicare plan. But the way they did it was telling: A couple of lines about how is a nice guy, sure, but then the segue to the attack and a script that included a line saying President Obama was more in tune with working class voters,” added King.

According to the CNN/ORC International survey, which was conducted entirely after Romney added Ryan to the GOP ticket, 49% of registered voters in Wisconsin say they back President Barack Obama, with 45% supporting Romney. The president’s four point advantage over the presumptive Republican presidential nominee is within the survey’s sampling error.

The poll shows that Ryan has the highest net favorable rating of any of the four people on the two major tickets while Romney’s is now at a net +3, which is a decent up tick from where it’s been in other statewide and national polls. The poll also shows that the Romney/Ryan ticket is performing very well with senior citizens and those under 50, while Obama/Biden leads among those from 50-65. Another poll taken entirely after the Ryan pick was announced, this one by Rasmussen, showed Romney leading Obama in the Badger state by a point, which is essentially a statistical tie. All of this puts the RealClearPolitics average at +3.5 for Obama.

I’m still not convinced that Wisconsin is going to be in play this year. The state hasn’t gone for a Republican since Ronald Reagan’s re-election landslide in 1984, and these poll numbers could end up being temporary. If they hold up, however, it suggests that the Romney/Ryan ticket may have electoral avenues open to it that we had not anticipated. There’s going to be a lot of poll fluctuation over the next three weeks or so as the public absorbs the Ryan pick and the two party conventions, but if Wisconsin is as close in after Labor Day as it is now, we could be looking at something significant here.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. C. Clavin says:

    I love that this guy has been on the campaign for less than a week and already he has caught Romney’s flippity-floppity disease.
    On China he is taking a stand in direct opposition to his Congressional voting record.
    He is running away from his own Medicare Elimination Plan.
    And he was against the Stimulus before he lobbied for funds from the Stimulus which he was then against.
    But Ryan is a serious man….
    What f’ing hooey.

  2. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Meh. I don’t necessarily buy into the WI is in play thesis. WI voted for Dukakis, for cryin’ out loud. Ryan himself never would have been more than even money had he ever run there on his own for a major office.

    Then again, W. Bush in 2000 came within the margin of some Buchanan nuts and some voter fraud in Milwaukee from winning the state. Walker and Ron Johnson between them have won three major elections there over the past 20 months. Ryan does hail from the state. The hope & change dog and pony show pulled up lame and croaked. So it’s not ludicrous to think Romney/Ryan could flip WI.

    Time will tell.

  3. al-Ameda says:

    Wisconsin is definitely in play for Republicans. They’re on the crazy train these days. They dumped Russ Feingold, elected Scott Walker, and their legislature decided to break public employee unions.

    Right now, I’d say it’s a Republican state.

  4. stonetools says:

    I think Obama will squeak through. But really, we’re still too far way from the elections for more than SWAGs

  5. Figs says:

    Has Ryan put Wisconsin in play?



  6. Dave says:

    The move to WI becoming more Republican is the horrible Brain Drain the state faces. As the population ages the college educated kids in great numbers are leaving the state to find work which will continue to erode overall Democratic support. However, in the past two election cycles I have seen some unlikely lifelong Republicans just quit voting because WI exemplifies the broken system. The recall election was proof positive of that.

  7. James Joyner says:

    @C. Clavin: We go through this every cycle. The running mate, especially if he’s been in Congress, always has to backtrack on things he’s said before. It’s even more fun when it’s someone who ran against the nominee in the primaries and lost.

  8. G.A. says:

    YES…Ryan and Tommy on the ticket says WI goes red.