MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin Republicans are hoping that a native son on the ticket in Tuesday’s presidential election will be the answer to ending their 28-year losing streak, which dates back to when Ronald Reagan won re-election in a nationwide landslide.
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 is even closer between Democratic U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin and longtime former Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson, who are fighting to replace retiring Democrat Herb Kohl. With spending on the race now topping $65 million, it’s the most expensive for a Senate seat 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.
Voters eager to cast their ballots were in line Tuesday morning when the polls opened at 7 a.m. At one south side Milwaukee polling place, about 300 people waited in low 30-degree weather for the chance to cast their votes.
John Pipal, 67, of Milwaukee, said he voted for Obama in 2008 and voted for him again this time.
“I feel better off now than I did four years ago. I like the direction that we’re headed. I think we’re headed to a positive economic status. It’s going to improve even more. I think we’re on the right track,” said Pipal, who is retired.
John Molinski, also retired, said he cast his vote for Romney.
“I’m anti health care. I don’t think the government should be in the health care business. I want to pick my own doctor,” said Molinski, 66, of Milwaukee.
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.
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.
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