Is Wisconsin the New Ohio?

For months, political pundits have discussed the important role Ohio will play in deciding this year’s presidential race. Now, the outcome in Ohio seems to be so uncertain that both parties are looking to pick up electoral votes in other states in case they don’t win Ohio. Wisconsin’s 10 electoral votes combined with Iowa’s six could offset a loss in Ohio, which commands 18 electoral votes.

One of the most popular election models, Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight blog hosted by the New York Times, predicts that Wisconsin has a 10.5% chance of being the state that determines the election, the one that puts the winner over the 270 vote mark.

Silver is not the only one projecting a close race. Real Clear Politics, which averages polls to produce an aggregate, has Obama up a slim 3.7 points in Wisconsin.


Democrats are counting on a targeted ground game fueled by contact information gathered from the recall efforts and a history of Democratic wins. President Obama won Wisconsin by a 13.9 whopping points in 2008, and Senator Kerry narrowly won against President Bush in 2004.

Republicans are ignoring presidential election history (as the GOP hasn’t won Wisconsin since Ronald Reagan’s reelection in 1984) and instead are focusing on recent elections that could indicate a conservative shift. Republicans believe the political machine they’ve built statewide over the past few years, largely in battle to recall Gov. Scott Walker, will make the difference for Romney on Election Day. That machine, which the Republicans test-drove back on June 5, performed exceedingly well: Walker turned out 1.3 million voters in the recall, over 205,000 more than he did in his 2010 victory.

The variability of the presidential race in Wisconsin opens up questions about down ballot outcomes as well. Control of both the U.S. and the state Senate is up for grabs, and pressure from the top of the ticket could impact both outcomes. Our last three elections have led to major swings and pick-ups for one party over another. Will a tight presidential mean status quo; or will there be some surprises? Hamilton Consulting will post results as they become available, and will have an analysis of the implications in the next edition of Political Tidbits.