Now, I've said that my home in a liberal academic community is the worse possible vantage point to get a real feel for this election. But in the post-Walker era, I've also lost my traditional neutral barometer of pure independents: my parents. They're retired Wisconsin teachers, so they're no longer neutral.
The simple fact is that with 50 days to go before the election, the president never — repeat, never — travels to a state just, well, because. Every trip is for a reason — and that reason almost always is because the campaign wants to generate a major free media boost in a place where the numbers are either lagging or already very close.
And that’s why Obama to Wisconsin intrigues us. It shows — without the Obama team needing to say anything — that a state no Republican presidential nominee has won since 1984 is now very much in play. (President Bush came close — twice — to winning Wisconsin; in 2004 he lost it by just over 11,000 votes.)
Wisconsin being close has little to do with Ryan; his DC profile is much higher than his profile in the parts of Wisconsin outside his district.
In an election that's not about the extinct independent voter, base mobilization is what matters, and Team Obama has the better field effort. But that could be a big part of the problem in Wisconsin: the volunteers and organizers are just plain exhausted.
My poor parents have voted SEVEN TIMES since the 2010 mid-terms: a primary and special to replace a state rep who went to work for Walker, a real jerk who I went to high school with and we flipped that seat blue. A recall primary and recall for their state senator, also flipped red to blue. (And the poor La Crosse election office had to hold yet another pair of elections, because the recall winner was a sitting state rep. But that wasn't Mon and Dad's district.) The dead-even Supreme Court election. And of course the primary and recall on Walker himself.
That much voting tends to drain the energy a bit.
But the real problem may be embarrassing video, in which the candidate says what he really thinks. No, not that one. This one:
That's even more politically damaging in Wisconsin than the time John Kerry called it "Lambert Field."
Ah, but unlike Romney. Obama knows that he is President Of All The People, and has no problem reaching out to his rivals.