Will Wisconsin primary build Obama streak?
Clinton needs a Dairy State win to prevent him from winning nine primaries in a row.
Kenosha and Milwaukee, Wis.,
According to conventional wisdom, Wisconsin should be Clinton country.Skip to next paragraph
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It's full of blue-collar voters who have been the stalwarts of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination and the black vote, which has been so strong for rival Sen. Barack Obama, is relatively minuscule here.
Yet Senator Clinton has cast herself as the underdog and, right now, signs point to a victory for Senator Obama in the state's Tuesday primary.
Observers are watching closely to see if he can not only fuel the perception of an Obama juggernaut by heading into the crucial Ohio and Texas primaries with a 10-0 winning streak, but also if he can continue to make inroads into some of Clinton's core supporters, including women and senior citizens.
"If she gets blown out, it would put her in a very weak position for the nomination," says Darrell West, a political science professor at Brown University in Providence, RI. "Wisconsin is a state where she should run well, so everybody will be watching to see if she can actually pull it off."
Given that importance and polls that have tended to show only a slight Obama lead, it's surprised some observers that Clinton has spent so little time in the state. While Obama campaigned here to packed crowds for four days last week, Clinton didn't put in an appearance until Saturday afternoon.
Obama has outspent her on TV roughly 4-to-1, while Clinton unleashed the first "attack" ads of the campaign – a mild effort taking him to task for refusing to debate in Wisconsin – and sent out mailings criticizing his healthcare plan.
In person, though, her attacks have been more subtle: jibes at Obama as having little substance behind his fine oratory – and who even copies her proposals when he makes a true policy speech – while emphasizing her own strengths in "the solutions business."
"It will take more than just speeches to fulfill our dreams," Clinton told a large crowd at a Milwaukee Democratic Party dinner on Saturday where she and Obama both spoke.
Republicans also vote Tuesday, though there's less anticipation in a race where the nominee seems to already be decided. And in a state that tends to be more moderate and lacks the strong Evangelical base of the South, Sen. John McCain should beat Gov. Mike Huckabee fairly easily.
Still, experts say it could potentially be a closer race than expected if many Republicans cast a vote for Huckabee or for Ron Paul as a "protest" vote. And anything less than a blowout for McCain would fuel the perception that he lacks the support of his party.
Wisconsin Right to Life was one of the lead plaintiffs against the McCain-Feingold campaign finance bill, notes Charles Franklin, a political science professor at the University of Wisconsin in Madison and codeveloper of Pollster.com. "It would be very interesting to see how they're taking the prospect of a McCain presidency or nomination…. I wouldn't be shocked to see Huckabee get a decent share of the vote here, but I would be very surprised if he makes it much like Virginia."