Wisconsin – and Mitt Romney’s win there Tuesday – could be an important watershed moment in the GOP primary, elevating Mitt Romney from front-runner to foregone conclusion as his party’s nominee. It could be just as important in November, particularly since Republicans’ budget wunderkind Paul Ryan, their Party Chairman Reince Priebus both hail from there.
And the most important political event between now and the presidential election could be a hotly contested recall effort against the Republican Gov. Scott Walker.
Wisconsin is likely to be an important swing state for the Republican party in the general election even though it has gone blue in the past several presidential elections; Gore carried it in 2000, Kerry in 2004, and most recently Obama won the Badger state in 2008 with 56% of the vote, as compared to McCain’s 42%.
Still, the state is not a Democratic stronghold by any means. In fact, the state is, in many ways, a model for the shift in the political direction of the country since Democrats took control of Congress in 2006, and then the White House in 2008. It’s a shift Republicans would very much like to see continue- first with a positive outcome in June when the state will hold a recall election for their Republican Governor, Walker, and again in the general election in November.
Why does Wisconsin take on this particular importance? 2010 was a banner year for Republicans in Wisconsin. In addition to electing a Republican governor, the state ushered in a new Republican senator- Ron Johnson, who defeated Democratic incumbent Russ Feingold- and two new Republican congressmen- Sean Duffy and Reid Ribble.
Wisconsin Republicans achieved one other impressive feat that year; their state party chairman, Priebus, was elected chairman of the Republican National Committee. Additionally, Paul Ryan, the Congressman from the first congressional district, rose to Chairman of the House Budget Committee when Republicans regained control of the House of Representatives.
The bar has been set high for Wisconsin in 2012 with this in mind. And the stakes are high there this time around as well. In addition to the 10 electoral votes in the general election, there’s the possibility for a Republican pick-up in the Senate, where the retirement of Democratic Senator Herb Kohl leaves an open race.
“Wisconsin is more than just a swing state at the presidential level” explains ABC News Political Director Amy Walter. “It is also the home of rising GOP star (and potential VP pick) Paul Ryan, and the site of a competitive Senate race that could help determine control of the U.S. Senate.”
To be sure, Wisconsin does not take on the same mathematical importance as say Virginia or Florida, which offer many more electoral votes in the general (13 and 29 respectively.) There are several Republican paths to victory which do not include Wisconsin’s 10 electoral votes.
Still, with the parties recent success in Wisconsin, plus its numerous GOP stars (Priebus, Ryan), in addition to the high-stakes Senate race, the Badger state will certainly take on an elevated status.