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Daily Breakdown: Wisconsin Is A Toss-Up

The biggest news is in Wisconsin, where the first post-Ryan polls show a closer race in the Badger State.

While Obama’s 4-point edge in the CNN poll might look comfortable, notice that it’s a poll of registered voters, so it’s probably slightly closer. Given that Obama has a 3-point lead nationally, Wisconsin appears to have moved right into alignment with the nation as a whole. That’s hardly surprising given the expected bounce for a VP pic and it moves the state into the toss-up column. Whether the tight race endures is a separate question, since VP picks tend to be most popular immediately after their selection. On the other hand, Ryan isn't a statewide political figure, so perhaps he has room to grow. 

A toss-up in Wisconsin has modest implications for the electoral map, but, dare I say, it's not a game changer. Most significantly, Romney wins in Wisconsin and Iowa could allow him to counter losses in Virginia and Colorado, two diverse and well-educated states where Obama has an edge in the polls. Romney could also potentially counter a loss in Ohio and Nevada with wins in the other Bush states, plus Wisconsin. But these are relatively narrow scenarios that don’t fundamentally reshape the map, and the Ohio scenario isn't just narrow, it's unlikely. Romney still can’t overcome losses in Florida, or any additional state past Virginia and Colorado or Ohio. And it’s not clear that Romney's better-off in Wisconsin than he is nationally, so a closer race in the Badger state might just be closer, but not enough to make the state tilt Romney's way. That said, a tight race in Wisconsin does reduce the slim chance that Romney could win the popular vote while losing the electoral college, since any Romney victory in the popular vote would entail big gains among white working class voters, and Wisconsin is certainly a state that would move if Romney made big gains with that demographic group.

The other notable poll was in Michigan, where a Mitchell Research poll put Obama up by 5 points. For the first time since spring, Obama has a clear edge in recent Michigan polls, with the RCP average showing Obama up 7.7 percent with 49.5 percent of the vote. Given the absence of serious campaigning by either presidential campaign, Michigan belongs in the Lean Obama column, if it wasn’t there already. 

Odds and Ends

--My opinion on voter-ID in Pennsylvania hasn't changed: while it's tough to imagine how it wouldn't hurt Democrats, the potential consequences range from modest to indiscernible. In the past, it's been the latter, and the law is not enough to move Pennsylvania into the toss-up column.

--If you watched the first week of the Olympics, you were probably bombarded by Obama campaign advertisements. According to the Washington Post's ad tracker, the Obama campaign spent 10 million on a big national-TV buy. It's hard to say whether that money was well spent, but I'll just observe that it's a possible cause for some of the movement in Obama's direction observed a few national polls earlier this month. 

--There's talk that the Ryan plan is an asset to Romney in courting young voters, but there's not much of a case for that position, at least not yet. The best evidence comes from a Pew Poll, but just 13 percent of young voters said they had heard alot about the plan. Pew's description wasn't exactly in-depth, either. It wouldn't be wise to dismiss the possibility that the Ryan plan is popular among young voters, but this isn't exactly sound evidence. It might also be noted that discussing Social Security Reform didn't exactly give Republicans the support of young voters for generations to come.