A Republican resurgence here, which has burst into full view as the party determinedly defends its sitting governor in a rare recall election, is spilling into the presidential race. The result is poised to shape the general election fight between Mr. Obama and Mitt Romney, who intends to add Wisconsin to his list of targeted states.The president is bracing for a difficult set of challenges, which began last week when an uptick in the unemployment rate provided a fresh reminder of the beleaguered domestic economy and the deepening financial uncertainties abroad. A Republican victory here could set off a wave of adjustments in the lineup of swing states. Even before the outcome of Tuesday’s vote is known, Democrats are warning that Wisconsin is far from a surefire win in November. “We are tremendously polarized,” Mike Tate, the Wisconsin Democratic chairman, said in an interview on Sunday. “We’re going to remain a very competitive state heading into the fall.” While the presidential campaign is well under way across the country, the contest has been overshadowed here by the effort to recall Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican. The election, a culmination of more than a year of bitter unrest, has created a combustible political climate that defies easy characterization in the five months leading up to the general election. But Mr. Romney is within striking distance of Mr. Obama in Wisconsin, according to several public and private polls and interviews with strategists in both parties, and he intends to start building a campaign operation off the robust get-out-the-vote machinery assembled for Mr. Walker. The decision by the Romney campaign to try to contest Wisconsin is the first sign that Republicans are eager to expand their targets of opportunity and compete on terrain that not long ago seemed squarely on Mr. Obama’s side. “If we win on Tuesday, this is going to be a shot in the arm and adrenaline that we didn’t expect to have,” said former Gov. Tommy G. Thompson, a Republican who is seeking the party’s nomination to run for Senate. “It is going to spark fervor in the presidential race.” Mr. Obama has purposefully tried to keep his distance from the recall fight, which has unfolded with all the intensity and acrimony of a presidential campaign within the borders of Wisconsin. The mayor of Milwaukee, Tom Barrett, is the Democratic candidate trying to replace Mr. Walker, who ignited a furor by cutting collective bargaining rights for most of the state’s public workers. It is a rematch of the 2010 governor’s race, which Mr. Barrett lost to Mr. Walker. The White House has showed tepid support for the recall. Democratic advisers thought the effort would take time and money away from the presidential campaign and poison the pool of independent voters who were a key part of Mr. Obama’s success here four years ago, when he carried the state by 14 points and swept 59 of 72 counties. The president, who campaigned for Mr. Barrett two years ago, has been conspicuously absent this time. His aides argued that he had a full plate and did not have time to come. But Republicans were quick to point out that Mr. Obama was only a helicopter ride on Marine One away from the state on Friday when he visited Minneapolis, and again on Saturday after spending the morning in his old neighborhood in Chicago. “He couldn’t drive 15 miles and show his face here?” said Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, who spent the weekend in his native Wisconsin to stir the pot and campaign for Mr. Walker. “There are going to be a lot of Democrats in Wisconsin who are going to be pretty disappointed with their president who did not come in and help out.” While there was more talk of Mr. Obama’s absence among Republicans than Democrats here, several Democratic officials said the president was wise to stay away. “He’s got a very big job as president,” said former Gov. Jim Doyle, a Democrat and one of Mr. Obama’s earliest supporters four years ago. “As important as the recall is, in the big picture, it’s much more important to get Barack Obama re-elected.” The recall election has created bruised feelings and deepened the partisan divide in the state, which was on full display Sunday at the Zirbel Dairy Farms near De Pere, in northeast Wisconsin, where both candidates in the recall race crossed paths as they courted voters.
View the original article in NYTimes.com