Wis. voters face tight Senate, presidential races
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MADISON Wisconsin Republicans are hoping that having a native son on the Tuesday’s presidential ticket will help deliver the state to their White House pick for the first time since Ronald Reagan’s 1984 landslide re-election.
But even with U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Janesville as Mitt Romney’s running mate, President Barack Obama isn’t conceding Wisconsin or its 10 electoral votes. Obama won the state by 14 points in 2008, but polls show this year’s race is close.
The state’s U.S. Senate race between Democratic U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin and longtime former Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson is even closer. They are vying to replace retiring Democratic Sen. Herb Kohl, and the more than $65 million spent on the race has made it the most expensive U.S. Senate race in state history.
Voters also will choose all eight Wisconsin members of U.S. House, all 99 members of the state Assembly and half of the state Senate.
Ryan cast his ballot in Janesville early Tuesday and was asked whether he and running mate Mitt Romney would win the election.
“I think we are. I feel good about it,” said Ryan, who voted with his wife, Janna Ryan, at a local library. Their three children, Liza, Sam and Charlie, watched as their parents cast their votes.
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, who lives in Kenosha County, said he voted at a polling place in Somers and felt good about what GOP campaign workers have been able to accomplish.
“We have done, I think, the Romney campaign, the volunteers here and across the Midwest I think just an incredible job of party ID, getting out the vote, identifying who your voters are and then using the technology, the manpower and the people to get the job done and find these folks a way to get to the polls,” Priebus told WISN-AM in Milwaukee.
Ron Perkins, a 66-year-old insurance agent from Sun Prairie, said he voted for Romney. He said his son convinced him to vote for Obama four years ago, and that the president hasn’t lived up to his expectations.
“He was a better speaker than a leader,” Perkins said.
Cari Herling, who is also a Sun Prairie insurance agent, said she voted for Obama, just as she did four years ago.
“I just feel (Obama) has such integrity. I trust him,” said Herling, 44. “I don’t think Romney understands people who are down and out. ... I believe (the problems of) the last four years weren’t just Obama. I believe Obama walked into a mess.”
Wisconsin was among a shrinking number of battleground states in the waning weeks of the campaign, leading to multiple visits by the candidates and their surrogates. Obama visited Wisconsin three times in the five days before the election, even bringing rock ‘n’ roll star Bruce Springsteen on Monday, while Ryan tailgated with Green Bay Packers fans Sunday and stopped in Milwaukee on Monday night.
Obama was expected to do well in the Democratic stronghold areas of Madison and Milwaukee, while Romney should rack up votes in the suburban counties around Milwaukee. The race could come down to who does best in swing parts of the state, such as the Green Bay and Fox Valley regions.
The only other statewide race is for Kohl’s U.S. Senate seat, which Democrats have held since 1957. Should Thompson win, Wisconsin would be represented by two Republicans in the Senate for the first time since 1957.
With temperatures in the 30s and light flurries falling, 34-year-old warehouse clerk Chris Pfeifer emerged from his Madison polling station inside a library that’s part of a suburban strip mall. Pfeifer voted for Baldwin.
“She’s been a really good representative for the district,” Pfeifer said. “I think Tommy’s had his chance already.”
Pfeifer described the Senate campaign as “vicious” and said he was glad it was over.
Dave Zeman, a 60-year-old doctor from Madison, voted for Thompson, saying he agreed more with his policies than with Baldwin’s.
“I do think his ad is pretty close, that Tammy Baldwin is arguably more liberal than Nancy Pelosi,” Zeman said, referring to one of the numerous attack ads in the race attempting to label Baldwin as a liberal extremist.
Even though he’s the GOP vice presidential candidate, Ryan is seeking re-election to the U.S. House seat he’s won seven straight times since 1998. Ryan is being challenged by Democrat Rob Zerban, but should he win both races, he would have to give up his congressional seat.
Ryan is one of five Republicans representing Wisconsin in Congress, and two of them — Reps. Sean Duffy in the 7th District and Reid Ribble in the 8th District — face credible challenges from Democrats. The other incumbents are expected to easily win re-election.
Baldwin gave up her U.S. House seat to run for Senate, and Democratic state Rep. Mark Pocan is widely expected to with the district, which covers the liberal capital city of Madison and surrounding area.
In the Legislature, Republicans hope to erase the slim Democratic majority in the Wisconsin Senate won after recall elections earlier this year. Democrats hold a 17-15 majority with one vacancy in a Republican district. Of the 16 seats to be elected Tuesday, only six are currently held by Republicans. Of the 10 seats held by Democrats, two incumbents are viewed as vulnerable. Republicans are also eyeing an open seat currently held by a Democrat who is retiring.
The margin is much wider in the Assembly, where Republicans hold a 59-39-1 edge going into Election Day and are not expected to lose the majority.
Associated Press writers Todd Richmond in Sun Prairie, Philip Elliot in Janesville and Gretchen Ehlke in Milwaukee contributed to this report.