In January, looking ahead to Wisconsin’s big political year, I thought that Gov. Walker would be recalled in June, and Gov. Romney would win both Wisconsin and the presidency in November. The first prediction was well off-the-mark. (Gov. Walker actually did better in 2012 than he did in 2010.)
The November contest is yet ahead, leaving two of those three predictions still to be assessed. All three, though, were based on the same theory: that a moderate-conservative candidate would do better than a thoroughly conservative candidate in Wisconsin. Of course, Walker might have done even better as a moderate-conservative (rather than a thorough-going conservative), but he did well enough that it’s quibbling to speculate.
The theory may yet hold, however, if Gov. Romney’s delivery in last night’s presidential debate is how he presents himself over the next month. Romney does a poor impression of a die-hard conservative, and when he tries to speak like one, he’s off-putting. (See, Does Mitt Romney Really Want to be President of the United States?, a post describing the trouble that Romney causes himself when he describes America as divided between makers and takers.)
When Romney talks like this, the one thing that he makes is it harder for himself to win.
At the very least, when Romney sounds like he did in his first presidential debate, he improves his chances, assuring a closer race.
That matters nationally, but also in battlegrounds like Wisconsin. The current state of the Wisconsin race favors Obama, and consequently down-ballot Democrats. These local Democrats need all the help the can get when running after re-districting. By contrast, if the presidential race draws closer here, it’s sure to benefit down-ballot Republicans.
Romney doesn’t need to win Wisconsin to help WISGOP candidates, but he needs to bring the race closer than it is now.
He’ll only be able to bring the race closer if he presents himself each remaining day as he did in last night’s debate.