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Extended Democratic Primary Gives McCain a Boost in Wisconsin

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Last year, Wisconsin appeared ready to vote for a Democratic presidential nominee for the sixth consecutive election. Democratic candidates were defeating Republican candidates in most matchup polls and, in generic partisan matchups, Wisconsinites gave Democrats the edge by double digits in polls conducted in Spring 2007, Summer 2007, and as late as November 2007 (Badger Poll, WPR / St. Norbert College). However, Wisconsin is a classic battleground state and thus the numbers were bound to change with the political tides. And they have.

Once Republicans settled on John McCain to be their nominee, Wisconsin voters have seemed to rally around the Arizona Senator. McCain was once polling in the 30s when matched up against Hillary Clinton (Rasmussen, August 2007), but has gradually chipped away at her advantage in more than a half-dozen polls since: McCain polled at 40 percent against her in October 2007, 45 percent in November 2007, and 49 percent in December 2007 and January 2008 (Rasmussen, SurveyUSA). Two Rasmussen polls of likely Badger State voters conducted since McCain wrapped up the GOP nomination in late February and late March 2008 both show him with double-digit leads over Clinton, reaching the 50 percent mark in both surveys.

Barack Obama is more competitive against McCain than Clinton at the moment, though McCain did lead the junior Senator from Illinois by 48 to 46 percent (within the margin of error) in Rasmussen's late March poll.

The extended primary process has not been kind to Clinton in Wisconsin, and the already high unfavorable marks she had in the Badger State before announcing her candidacy (48 percent in July 2006, Rasmussen), have now climbed in recent months: to 51 percent in December 2007 and 58 percent in March 2008 (Rasmussen). Flirting with 60 percent unfavorable marks will not get you elected in any state.

Obama's unfavorability numbers were also bound to increase, as he was largely an unknown quantity to the average voter before the primary season began; they have increased in Wisconsin from 39 percent in December 2007 to 45 percent in March 2008 (Rasmussen). Still, a respectable 54 percent of Wisconsinites currently have a favorable rating of Obama.

McCain, however, has been a well-known and popular political figure in Wisconsin in recent years. And even though his favorability rating took an initial hit when he entered the 2008 race for the White House (dipping from 64 percent in July 2006 to 48 percent in August 2007, Rasmussen), this rating, unlike that of his Democratic challengers, has grown ever since: rising to 50 percent in October 2007 and 54 percent in March 2008 (Rasmussen). Perhaps more importantly, his unfavorability rating has remained constant: 45 percent in August 2007, 44 percent in October 2007, and 45 percent in March 2008 (Rasmussen).

Wisconsinites are not endeared by 'attack politics' and if McCain can stay above the fray—looking ever the more 'presidential' while his Democratic opponents beat each other up in the coming weeks—the Arizona Senator will be sitting in a good position to finally take back the Badger State for the Republicans come November.

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Political Crumbs

Final Four Has Presidential Approval

By edging Michigan in the final seconds Sunday, the University of Kentucky guaranteed that one school in the Final Four this year would be located in a state that was not carried by President Barack Obama in 2012. (Connecticut, Florida, and Wisconsin had previously earned Final Four slots over the weekend). Across the 76 Final Fours since 1939, an average of 3.1 schools have been located in states won by the president's ticket during the previous election cycle. All four schools have come from states won by the president 29 times, with the most recent being the 2009 Final Four featuring Connecticut, Michigan State, North Carolina, and Villanova. On 30 occasions three Final Four schools have been located in states won by the president, with two schools 11 times and only one school six times (the most recent being 2012 with Kansas, Kentucky, Louisville, and Ohio State). There has never been a Men's NCAA Division I Final Four in which no schools were located in states carried by the president's ticket.


Three for the Road

A new Rasmussen Poll shows Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker in a dead heat with likely 2014 Democratic nominee Mary Burke. Walker is seeking to win his third consecutive election after prevailing in 2012's recall contest. Eight of his predecessors accomplished this feat: Republicans Lucius Fairchild (in 1869), Jeremiah Rusk (1886), Robert La Follette (1904), Emanuel Philipp (1918), John Blaine (1924), Walter Kohler (1954), Warren Knowles (1968), and Tommy Thompson (1994). Three others Badger State governors lost on their third campaign: Democrat George Peck (1894), Progressive Philip La Follette (1938), and Republican Julius Heil (1942). One died in office before having the opportunity to win a third contest (GOPer Walter Goodland in 1947) while another resigned beforehand (Democrat Patrick Lucey in 1977 to become Ambassador to Mexico). Overall Wisconsin gubernatorial incumbents have won 35 of 47 general election contests, or 74.5 percent of the time.


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