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Reality Check: Wisconsin Still Considered A Swing State

Published On: Aug 14 2008 05:53:02 AM CDT   Updated On: Aug 14 2008 09:55:14 AM CDT

The race for the White House is heating up as the campaign season heads into the conventions.

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We've heard it said and we've seen it in past elections -- Wisconsin is a battleground state when it comes to national politics.

But you might have seen the presidential polls this summer that make it seem like the state has turned blue.

It seems like a given that presidential candidates will spend time, energy and money on Wisconsin.

It's all because our state seemingly splits when it comes to national politics.

But after seeing months of widening polls, is Wisconsin still a so-called "swing state"?

We sure have been in the past - - the last two general elections have been nail biters.

2004 found John Kerry winning Wisconsin by a half a percentage point. In 2000, Al Gore won by a point, although neither of them won the election.

But polling this summer has indicated a possible shift in our independent streak. In June and July, (comma) Barack Obama led John McCain by double digits, a WISC-TV analysis found.

Political scientist Charles Franklin tracks polls and said in August that the polling in the race is tightening.

"For us to be anywhere close to double digits represented a huge change from the past," said Franklin. "Now in August we've had two new polls, one showing about a 6 point lead, one a 7 point lead. That's in keeping with what we might expect. "

But Franklin said there has been a shift statewide in party identification.

In 2004, polling showed the state was roughly a third each Democrat, Independent and Republican. But that has shifted with 5 to 10 percent fewer people identifying Republican, WISC-TV found.

"So the upshot of that is there's been a shift in party balance over the last four years that could be very important to the state and Democratic candidates in the state," said Franklin.

But if you simply look at candidate behavior, they're certainly not ignoring Wisconsin.

In fact, Wisconsin is one of four Great Lakes states - -that include Pennsylvania, Michigan and Ohio -- where half of the total ad spending in the country has been concentrated.

Madison, Milwaukee and Green Bay are all in the top 20 TV markets for ad spending with nearly 7,000 ads airing since June, WISC-TV found.

In person and on the ground, the campaigns are making investments here as well.

McCain has been to the state four times already and has six field offices open and is planning four more by September. Obama has only been here once since the general election started but has 23 offices open and is hoping for a dozen more by the end of the month, WISC-TV found.

Can Wisconsin still be considered a swing state? By all accounts, yes. But Franklin said it might take a few weeks to know for sure.

"I think the polls that come out a week or two after the conventions are going to be critical for telling us whether we're going to be again one of these competitive swing states or whether the state has shifted enough that one candidate or the other will maintain a lead," said Franklin.

Bottom line -- we'll likely carry some weight in November and despite our possible shifts in ideology -- in the end it comes down to who the candidates are and whether a state can get behind them.

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