There are signs of hope for Romney. A survey that the Democratic polling firm Public Policy Polling released Saturday suggested that the presidents lead in Wisconsin had shrunk to just 2 percentage points in Wisconsin, a change the firm attributes to Romneys performance in last weeks debate.
The state is a tough sell for Romney: No Republican presidential nominee has won it since 1984.
George W. Bush came close twice, and the Republicans have a tested organization in the state after Republican Gov. Scott Walker convincingly won a recall election this summer. Theres also Romneys decision to make Wisconsin Congressman Ryan his vice-presidential pick.
Support for the Republican ticket did improve in August after Romney chose Ryan.
But Ryans statewide appeal is limited by the fact he represents just one-eighth of Wisconsin as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, as opposed to senators, who run statewide and are better known. Ryan also is seen as more polarizing now than he was at the time Romney picked him, Franklin said. About the same number of people in Wisconsin reported viewing Ryan in a negative light in the latest Marquette poll as those who look at him favorably.
Lets just remember these are presidential elections. In other campaigns when youve seen particularly strong or particularly weak vice-presidential picks, its still boiled down to the presidential nominee. Its much more on Romneys shoulders to carry the race in Wisconsin than it is on Ryans, Franklin said.
Ryan or not, 58-year-old Brian Grebach of Milwaukee, who recently lost his job as a diesel mechanic after 19 years, thinks its time to give Romney a chance.
Obama has been president going on four years, he said. Thats a long time, and nothing has really changed.
Manufacturing largely drives Wisconsins economy. The state makes a wide range of things, from paper to plastics to surgical equipment. The auto industry has long been fleeing Wisconsin, and it doesnt hold nearly the same kind of dominance as it does in Michigan and Ohio. Food processing is important, as is agriculture, which is suffering from the drought.
Its a really weak, slow recovery. Theres not been a whole lot of job growth in Wisconsin. Depending on which time periods you look at, weve been losing jobs, said Steven Deller, an economist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. If you look at the 50 states, were not in the worst position, but were not very far from being among the worst.
Federal data shows the state creating jobs at a significantly lower rate than the rest of the country, although its unemployment rate is still lower than the national number.
The health of the Wisconsin economy has been hotly debated, with Gov. Walker touting job growth as he won the recall election, which was sparked by his move to strip public employee unions of collective bargaining rights. Walker now watches as his fellow Republicans talk about how bad Wisconsins economy is and point the finger at Obama.
Its a state whose 10 electoral votes, while not a giant prize like Ohios or Floridas, are among the most of the remaining battleground states. A Romney win would go a long way toward helping him chart a path to the presidency, and Ryan doesnt want to lose his home state to Obama.
But Obama has passionate supporters in Wisconsin. The president tried to solidify his lead in the state last week with a rally at the University of Wisconsin-Madison that drew an estimated 30,000 people, among his largest crowds of the campaign. University police said another 6,000 had to be turned away from the packed lawn.
University of Wisconsin students such as Ursula Hymes started waiting in line at 6:30 a.m. for a chance to hear Obama speak nine hours later.
Hell win Wisconsin by a landslide, she declared.