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Wisconsin race in dead heat before second presidential debate

October 17, 2012|By Bob Secter, Chicago Tribune
  • Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) campaigns at Carroll University in Waukesha, Wisc.
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) campaigns at Carroll University in Waukesha,… (Michael Sears / Milwaukee…)

President Obama’s once commanding lead in Wisconsin had evaporated before Tuesday night’s second presidential debate, and a once-Democratic tilting U.S. Senate contest had become a dead heat, according to a new poll.

A Marquette University Law school survey released Wednesday showed a virtual tie between Obama and Republican Mitt Romney, with the president up by 49% to 48% among likely voters, well within the poll’s 3.4 percentage point margin of error.  

The race, poll director Charles Franklin said, was “just as close as it could possibly be at this point.”

Just two weeks ago, a Marquette poll gave Obama a 53% to 42% edge over Romney in Wisconsin, which has 10 electoral votes and had once been all but ceded to the Democrats, but that margin largely vanished after Romney’s commanding performance in the first presidential debate two weeks ago.

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Franklin said the new survey showed both that Wisconsin Republicans have become more energized about Romney, and independent voters, who backed Obama 49% to 40% before the first debate, had moved to favoring Romney by a margin of 49% to 45%.

Obama’s strong showing among female voters had also fallen off considerably, with the president holding a 61% to 37% edge two weeks ago but holding on to just a four-point lead, 51% to 47% in the newest survey.

The lead in the Senate race between Democrat Tammy Baldwin and Republican Tommy Thompson has flip-flopped considerably since the summer. Thompson was up by nine points in a mid-August Marquette survey, but by the next month Baldwin had surged ahead by the same amount.

The latest survey showed Thompson was the choice of 46% of likely voters and Baldwin the choice of 45%, so close as to be considered a statistical tie.

Baldwin, like Obama, earlier held a strong lead among female voters. But the new survey showed her holding on to just a 47%-44% lead among women, again within the survey’s margin of error.

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The outcome of the Wisconsin race could be crucial to control of the Senate.  The seat is currently held by Democrat Herb Kohl, who is retiring.

Interviews for the latest survey were mostly conducted after last week’s vice presidential debate, and they suggest that Wisconsin voters had a somewhat negative reaction to Vice President Joe Biden’s performance.

Among voters surveyed before the debate, Biden was perceived favorably by 49% and unfavorably by 41%. But impressions of Biden sagged among those surveyed after the debate, with 44% seeing him favorably and 47% unfavorable.

Meanwhile, Ryan appeared to get a bit of a bump from Thursday’s debate. Among those surveyed before the event, he was perceived favorably by 46% and unfavorably by 41%. Among those surveyed after the debate, 50% viewed him favorably and 40% unfavorably.

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bsecter@tribune.com

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