NJ Insiders: Wisconsin Romney's Best Blue State Bet
If Mitt Romney wants to win a traditionally blue state this fall, he should focus on Wisconsin.
That's the bipartisan view of National Journal's political insiders, who overwhelmingly selected the Badger State as the most likely Democratic stronghold to turn red in November.
The insiders were given a choice of three states that haven't voted for a Republican presidential nominee since 1988 - Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan. Nearly half of Republicans, 47.6 percent, picked Wisconsin, while 54.9 percent of Democrats named the state.
Which traditionally blue state does Mitt Romney have the best chance of winning?
Wisconsin's prospects in November hinge on what happens with the recall election of Republican Gov. Scott Walker in June. With Walker now being seen as a favorite to win the recall - he's up six points in a poll released this week - GOP officials are more optimistic they can repeat that success five months later.
"A lot depends on the Wisconsin recall," one GOP insider said. "Walker wins equals Romney target. Walker loses equals Obama holds."
Added one Democratic operative, "Two words: Scott Walker."
In 2004, George W. Bush came within a single percentage point of winning the state over Democratic nominee John Kerry.
Romney's ability to win a historically Democratic presidential state could be pivotal for his chance to win the presidency. Eighteen states, in addition to the District of Columbia, have supported the Democratic presidential nominee the last five general elections. Combined, they're worth 242 electoral votes, giving the Democrat a big inherent edge in any election.
If Romney can knock down part of that so-called "blue wall," it would be a major boost to his chances if he can pair it with wins in battleground states like Florida and Ohio.
Notably, the insiders took a dim view of Romney's chances in the state where his father served as governor, Michigan - each group of insiders said of the three options, he is least likely to win there. Romney's opposition to the auto-bailout has hurt him among many of the Wolverine State's independent voters.
"The Midwest is the key swing area, but the President has done a masterful job of selling himself as the savior of the auto industry and Romney's position is too nuanced to explain," said one GOP insider.
But other Republicans still hold out hope Romney can use his deep family history in the state to claw his way back into contention there.
"The Romney brand still has some value in MI. Enough for a couple point boost," said one GOP official.
Republicans and Democrats each picked Pennsylvania second, with about 30 percent of each party's insiders selecting it. Obama won the Keystone State by 10 points just four years ago, but in 2010 the GOP claimed a Senate seat, the governor's mansion and five congressional races.
The state's western half has swung especially sharply to the right in recent years.
"Western Pennsylvania is becoming a growing problem for Democrats as are the rural areas in the middle," said one Democratic insider.