The Wisconsin Voter

The Wisconsin Voter

By:  Craig Gilbert

Craig Gilbert

Originally Appeared in Milwaukee Journal Sentinal

Wisconsin is back to a very familiar place in the partisan political wars, according to the latest poll by Marquette Law School: almost perfect parity.

President Obama leads Mitt Romney 49% to 48% in a survey of 870 likely voters taken Oct. 11-14.

Two weeks earlier, Obama led by 11 points in Marquette’s polling.

The story in this state is the same as elsewhere: Romney’s gains since the first presidential debate Oct. 3 have erased Obama’s post-convention bounce and made the race as close and unpredictable as it has been at any point in this election year.

The battle for Wisconsin has now gone through four distinct phases since mid-summer. From July to early August, Obama led by mid-single digits (averaging state surveys by different pollsters). Then Romney picked Wisconsin’s Paul Ryan as his running mate on Aug. 11 and most of Obama’s lead disappeared. Then the conventions boosted Obama, wiping out the “Ryan bounce,” giving the Democratic ticket an average lead of almost eight points in seven separate September polls. And now the Oct. 3 debate has wiped out Obama’s convention bounce. Marquette found that Romney had a two-point lead among those who watched that debate; Obama had an eight-point lead among those who didn’t.

In four Wisconsin surveys since Oct. 3 (by Rasmussen, Quinnipiac, Public Policy Polling and Marquette), Obama’s leads are two, three, two and one point. The fact that the US Senate race is also a virtual tie in Marquette’s poll (46% Thompson, 45% Baldwin) underscores the state’s current competitiveness, far more reminiscent of 2000 and 2004 than 2008.

The shifts in Wisconsin these past three months haven’t been massive. (The swings have been bigger in Marquette’s polling, smaller in other state surveys). But in an election where the share of undecided voters is unusually small, they’re a sign of play in the electorate. The battle for Wisconsin has basically oscillated since mid-summer between a quasi-comfortable Obama lead and a tiny, tenuous Obama lead (the chart below reflects polling by Marquette, NBC, Quinnipiac, CNN, Rasmussen and Public Policy Pollng):

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