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Will Wisconsin primary build Obama streak?

Clinton needs a Dairy State win to prevent him from winning nine primaries in a row.

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While Clinton's campaign has underplayed the significance of Wisconsin as they focus on the March 4 Ohio and Texas primaries, experts say what's critical isn't so much whether she wins or loses, but whether she can make a respectable showing and retain the demographic groups that Obama began siphoning off in Maryland and Virginia, including blue-collar workers, Latinos, and women.

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"If Obama on Tuesday night continues these strong inroads among these groups, then that's a signal that as he campaigns in the next weeks in Ohio, there's no reason he can't make similar gains there," says Prof. Fanklin.

At a rally at Kenosha's Brat Stop Saturday, Clinton spoke to an enthusiastic crowd and seemed to try and recreate the sort of "authentic" moments that may have helped her pull off an upset in New Hampshire. During a question-and-answer period, she responded to a young girl asking what she'd do about children with no food or homes, only to discover that the girl was herself in danger of losing her home, due in part to an adjustable rate mortgage.

"Come on up here," Clinton told her, and asked her mother for details about her situation. "We have all these people being forced into foreclosure."

But at the Milwaukee dinner, where Democratic Party insiders packed a large hall, she had trouble generating the kind of excitement that Obama did. His powerful stump speech – in which he repeated Clinton's criticisms to answer them head-on – earned him standing ovations.

"Speeches don't solve our problems, but if we can't inspire people to believe again it doesn't matter how many policies we have," he told the crowd.

Despite polls that have shown only a slim Obama lead – and one recent one that still had Clinton in front – he may be given a boost among late deciders, says Paul Maslin, a Democratic pollster in Madison citing the fact that it's an open primary with no real urgency on the Republican side, same-day registration that will allow new converts and young people to sign up and vote, and Wisconsin's proximity to Illinois, where Obama serves as senator.

"We may root against the Bears and the Cubs in this state, but I think deep down it's a good thing in our minds that we have a president from our own backyard," Mr. Maslin says.

Meanwhile, Wisconsin's largely white demographic means that the exit polls may offer some clues as to whether or not the Bradley Effect is still in play. That largely unexplained phenomenon, in which black candidates tend to perform worse than polls predict in white states, seems to have been a big factor in New Hampshire as well as California and Massachusetts. Wisconsin has similar demographics to those states, says Anthony Greenwald, a psychology professor at the University of Washington who studies the issue.

If the Bradley Effect disappears in Wisconsin and Obama performs as well as the polls predict, "that will mean something is changing in the dynamics of the electorate," says Professor Greenwald. Clinton still has some stalwart supporters.

"It comes down to experience. Obama is fairly new to the scene," says Ron Lauber, a maintenance worker from Muskego.

But others, who in theory would be Hillary's base, may be turning away.

Janet, a college administrator was so concerned friends won't understand her Obama support that she didn't want to give her last name.

"I identify with Hillary," says Janet. "But the idea that we need a new day, a new kind of politics really resonates…. I think the time is right for Obama."

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