Better targeting and strength in his cornerstone issues are boosting President Bush in Wisconsin, where the president's campaign shows more effective voter contact, and where he holds huge leads in terrorism, security, leadership and clarity.
Retail politics is helping Bush in two ways: Registered voters are six points more apt to have been contacted by his campaign than by John Kerry's, 25 percent to 19 percent. And six in 10 of those reached by Bush's campaign support him, while Kerry's supported by fewer than half of the Wisconsin voters his campaign has personally contacted.
As elsewhere, economic concerns work best for Kerry in Wisconsin. But here he only runs about evenly with Bush in trust to handle the economy, compared with an eight-point Kerry lead on the economy in an ABC News poll in Pennsylvania last week. And Bush hammers Kerry on a range of attributes, including personal favorability.
All told, this ABC News poll finds Bush leading Kerry by 53 percent to 43 percent among likely voters in Wisconsin, with 1 percent for Ralph Nader. (Nader is on the ballot for now. Excluding him it's a similar 54 percent to 44 percent Bush lead.) Among the broader group of all registered voters, it's 50 percent-44 percent-2 percent with Nader, and 51 percent to 45 percent without him.
Despite Bush's lead in the presidential race, incumbent Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold holds a 51 percent to 45 percent advantage among likely voters over construction executive and former Army officer Tim Michels in their race. Feingold is lifted by support from nearly six in 10 women, and he's wooing away close to two in 10 Bush supporters. Michels, though, leads by about 20 points among veterans.
As is the case nationally, there are vulnerabilities for Bush in Wisconsin that Kerry can try to exploit. About half of registered voters say the war in Iraq wasn't worth fighting. A bare majority is dissatisfied with the way things are going in the country. More cite the economy than any other issue as most important in their vote, and Kerry leads on two economic measures — in trust to handle "creating jobs" and "helping the middle class." Kerry also leads Bush by 49 percent to 40 percent in trust to handle health care, an issue that's on par with terrorism in its importance to voters.
But while Kerry held an eight-point advantage in trust to handle the economy in an ABC News poll in Pennsylvania last week, in Wisconsin it's Bush +3 (essentially even, given polling tolerances). And Kerry's leads on health care, jobs and the middle class pale in comparison to Bush's 24- and 19-point leads in trust to handle terrorism and Iraq. Indeed even a quarter of Democrats trust Bush over Kerry to handle terrorism.
Bush's greatest advantages in Wisconsin, however, aren't in issues but in personal attributes. He leads in seven of eight qualities tested in this poll, including double-digit leads in six of them. Kerry runs about evenly, +3, in one, empathy.