As calm as the presidential campaign is here in Fort Chicago, the battles are raging just across our borders in both Wisconsin and Indiana.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that in a new CNN/Time poll out this morning, Barack Obama leads John McCain 51% to 46% in Wisconsin. (John Kerry eeked out a win in Wisconsin in 2004 by 11,000 votes.)
In Indiana, a new poll out this morning by a local TV station shows the race tied at 46 percent, while the same CNN/Time poll reporting Wisconsin results gives McCain a 51 percent to 46 percent lead. Republican presidential candidates have won Indiana since 1968.
Let’s take a gander at both our neighbors, starting with Wisconsin.
CNN has now moved Wisconsin from a toss-up state to one leaning Obama. At the same time, the McCain campaign has pulled out of Michigan and some of those troops are now or will be in Wisconsin.
The Journal Sentinel also reports today that the Obama campaign – unsurprisingly – has done a better job organizing the youth vote in Wisconsin.
“Hundreds of young people in Wisconsin are part of the campaign’s unpaid internship program, where students spend 10 to 20 hours a week in campaign offices,” the paper says. “Field directors are posted on every college campus. Some 25 campuses in the state have Students for Barack Obama groups, said Ally Carragher, youth vote director for Obama’s Wisconsin Campaign for Change.
“There are fewer campuses with Students for McCain groups in Wisconsin – 10. The campaign has no internship program or youth vote director.”
Walter Shapiro wrote on Monday in Salon that Obama has opened an “enthusiasm gap” in the state.
“For all the glib talk about how Sarah Palin has energized the conservative base, it is hard to find evidence that the Republicans have papered over their enthusiasm gap here in Paper Valley, a moniker designating the dominant local industry in the Green Bay-Appleton area. ‘Our volunteer base is getting older and we’re trying to turn that around, but it’s not easy,’ concedes Tom Van Drasek, the Republican chairman of Brown County, of which Green Bay is the county seat. ‘McCain got started late here on the ground – and we’re struggling to catch up.'”
Bear in mind that Hillary Clinton won several states in the Democratic primary despite a clear advantage in enthusiasm by the Obama campaign. But in Wisconsin, Obama beat Clinton by 17 points.
McCain and Sarah Palin are scheduled to attend a town hall meeting in Waukesha on Thursday, and McCain will hold a rally in LaCrosse on Friday.
Early voting started on Monday in Indiana.
“Anecdotally, this was the heaviest first day we’ve ever seen,” Marion County Clerk Beth White told the Indianapolis Star today. “We hope it will take pressure off the poll sites and workers, but usually, early turnout is more of a signal of high interest.”
Northwest Indiana is already embroiled in controversy as well.
“Although there was no evidence of it here, early voting in Northwest Indiana’s Lake County has caused partisan disagreement,” the paper notes. “A federal judge is expected to hear a brewing dispute over satellite voting offices Thursday.
“Lake County’s election board, controlled by Democrats, voted to open those offices in Gary, East Chicago and Hammond. Those population centers are also Democratic strongholds.”
Indianapolis attorney David Brooks, representing Lake County Republicans, says: “The issue isn’t whether there’s more opportunities to vote. It’s whether it’s fair to everyone. They aren’t opening any satellite offices in Republican areas. You have to find politically balanced or neutral locations.”
At any rate, Obama is scheduled to hold a rally in Indianapolis on Wednesday.