President Obama defeated Mitt Romney in Wisconsin on Tuesday, according to Associated Press and network projections, giving the incumbent 10 electoral votes in a state that was once safely Democratic but had been considered up for grabs in recent months.
Wisconsin has chosen Democrats in each presidential election since 1988. But in the past few years, the state has voted more Republican. It elected a Republican governor, Scott Walker, in 2010, the same year that Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold was defeated by Republican challenger Ron Johnson. Johnson became the state’s first Republican senator in 18 years.
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Though Walker provoked the ire of some in the state by pushing through laws to limit collective bargaining for public employees, an effort to recall him was defeated earlier this year, and his approval rating has been rising. State and national Republicans have cited Walker as an example of how cutting spending and rolling back union power have a beneficial effect on the economy.
Republicans also hoped to gain some home-state advantage because of Paul D. Ryan, Romney’s vice presidential pick, a popular congressman from Janesville, who has been warmly welcomed every time he returns to the state. Ryan made three stops in one day in Wisconsin last week.
Still, Obama held a significant lead in the state, which he carried by 14 points in 2008, for much of the summer and early fall. He has also visited the state frequently, stopping Monday in Madison. But his lead began to slip in October, and by the end of the month, the president led by just 2.3 percentage points in the Real Clear Politics average of polls, down from 6.6 percentage points in the middle of the month.
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Democrats in the state are concentrated in Madison and Milwaukee, while the suburbs north and west of Milwaukee provide Republicans with a strong bloc of voters with high turnout rates. Many of the state’s other counties, especially the rural areas in the north, have flipped back and forth over the last four years, going for Obama in 2008 and then supporting Republican candidates in 2010.
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