Destination 270

SMU Students Analyze the 2012 Presidential Election

POLITICO Says Wisconsin Has One of the Five Hidden Factors of this Race

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During the 2008 election, President Obama had an amazing edge over McCain because of his tactic of getting people out to vote.

Obama won Wisconsin by 14 points in 2008. But he’s clinging to a 2-to-3 point lead with just over a week to go in the 2012 campaign, thanks to Paul Ryan and the general skepticism of working-class white voters that has hit Obama nationally.

That’s where a quirk of 1970s election law comes in. Wisconsin allows voters to register at the same time they cast ballots. In 2008, the Obama campaign used the law to maximum effect, encouraging hundreds of thousands of new voters, many of them incipient Democrats, to take advantage of the law.

A Democratic operative with experience in national and Senate races estimated that the same-day law could add up to 2 points to Obama’s tally this year.

Obama’s brain trust is even more sanguine. “Twelve percent of 2008 voters registered on Election Day,” a senior Obama campaign official said Friday. “So, if you win those voters 60/40 or 65/35, which is not unrealistic for us, you take that net 30 percent gain, multiply it by 12 — it’s 3.5, 4 points that we can expect to gain on Election Day in Wisconsin.”

Republicans say that tally is wildly exaggerated. They think the drop-off in the enthusiasm for the incumbent, coupled with an energized and organized GOP organization — battle-tested after Walker’s successful defeat of a union-backed recall election — will neutralize the same-day effect this year.

Still, Republicans have pushed for the law to be repealed.

One-time state GOP chairman Reince Priebus — now the top guy at the Republican National Committee — told the Milwaukee Sentinel Journal recently that scrapping the law “would help keep our elections clean and honest” and make it possible to have an election day “that’s not a complete zoo.”

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