Can Paul Ryan Keep Wisconsin Out of Democratic Hands?

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In 2010, the political tectonic plates shifted in Wisconsin perhaps more than in any other part of the country. Voters ousted the state's Democratic governor and installed a Republican one, Scott Walker. Longtime progressive Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold was replaced by Tea Party-backed Republican Ron Johnson and Republicans also took control of the state Senate.

After Walker attempted to roll back collective bargaining for public employees once taking office in 2010, Democrats' hopes of making the state ground zero for the defense of collective bargaining union rights flopped with their failed bid to recall Walker in 2012.

Beyond Wisconsin's 10 electoral votes - a veritable bounty in a race that is expected to be won by razor-thin popular and electoral margins - the Romney campaign hopes to pluck Wisconsin out from under the nose of Democrats and deliver a win in Ryan's home state.

Two things will be crucial in the final days: unemployment in the state and early voting.

After reaching a high of 9.2 percent in 2010, Wisconsin's unemployment rate has decreased to 7.3 percent, dropping two-tenths of a percent in the past month alone

Just as Obama was elected in 2008 by voters who hoped he would bring much-needed economic change, his fate in 2012 could rest on their perceptions of the current economic conditions.

And Democrats are also hoping to mobilize younger, progressive voters to the polls this November. Wisconsin's "absentee voting" laws allow anyone to register at the election clerk's office prior to the election and cast an absentee ballot.

"The Democrats in particular are counting on last-minute registrations of young people and other people who are likely to register late," professor Burden said.

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