If the polls show Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney within 3 percentage points of Barack Obama in Wisconsin, he will win the state, Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, told volunteers in Waukesha Saturday.
“If it is within a field goal, we are going to win this race,” he said during a stop at the GOP campaign office.
So, Priebus was quick to smile when he learned Saturday evening that a new Public Policy Polling poll showed Romney within 2 percentage points of Obama in Wisconsin. Two weeks ago, the same poll had Obama 7 points ahead.
“Don’t forget, that is even a Democratic poll, too,” Priebus said in an interview with Patch. “So, the Democrats say we are only down by two, I think we are doing pretty well. I feel pretty happy about it.
“The thing that matters is Nov. 6. We had a good week and we are going to have a good week next week," Priebus added. "We just have to continue to keep our heads down, win every day and talk about how to save this country, talk about the miserable record of Barack Obama and what Mitt Romney wants to bring to the table.”
“I wouldn’t be here, we wouldn’t be spending millions of dollars on TV, volunteers and resources in Wisconsin, if we thought that it was a lost cause."
Volunteers have been busy at the Republican Party of Waukesha County’s headquarters on Pearl Street in Waukesha, making phone calls to encourage Wisconsin residents to vote for Romney.
Statewide, volunteers have already made six times the amount of phone calls and 60 times the amount of door-to-door visits than they did in the 2008 presidential election, according to Priebus.
While Wisconsin is considered a swing state, it hasn’t voted for a Republican president since 1984. But efforts are heavily concentrated in Wisconsin following Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s win in a recall election and Romney selecting Janesville Congressman Ryan as his running mate.
“I wouldn’t be here, we wouldn’t be spending millions of dollars on TV, volunteers and resources in Wisconsin, if we thought that it was a lost cause,” Priebus said. “We always knew that it was close.”
'A Good Week'
Obama was showing a strong lead in Wisconsin just two weeks ago. Public Policy Polling had Obama over Romney in the state by 7 percentage points. As is the case in other swing states, Obama’s has stumbled in the polls following his performance in Wednesday's debate against Romney.
“I feel good about where we are headed in the campaign,” said Priebus, a Wisconsin native. “Obviously, we had a good week last week. Governor Romney did a fabulous job on Wednesday night.
“I think, No. 1, Obama didn’t show up and he has got a record he can’t defend. He is sort of a deer in the headlights when it comes to his own record," he added.
Priebus said he is looking forward to seeing Ryan take on Democrat Joe Biden in Thursday’s vice presidential debate. Ryan is “extremely bright” and understands the issues facing the nation, Priebus said.
While the Republicans shouldn’t discount Biden, Priebus said he’s not concerned about Thursday’s debate because “I believe in Paul.”
“I am looking forward to my good buddy Paul on Thursday night,” Priebus said. “I don’t think, Joe Biden, (that) you can take him lightly. I know he puts his foot in his mouth a lot, but he is a relatable guy, he is pretty quick on his feet, so I think it is going to be an interesting debate — obviously with two very different styles.”
While some Republican skeptics have questioned the Bureau of Labor Statistics release of unemployment data showing unemployment has dropped to 7.8 percent nationwide, Priebus wouldn’t say whether he thinks the numbers are skewed to provide political help toward the Obama campaign.
But he does question whether the unemployment drop is enough to move the country forward.
“Economists across America are debating the accuracy of these numbers,” Priebus said. “But my position is that if in fact they are accurate, I think it is always better for this country to have news like that.
“I would be foolish to think it is not better to have more people employed — of course it is. But the fact is, the overall picture is not good for this country," he said. "This president didn’t fulfill the mission and the promises that he made in regard to unemployment. Even if 7.8 (percent) is the right number, if he is celebrating that number, he is living on a different planet."
Democratic Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said the numbers show Obama has been able to right the economic ship since he took office in 2008.
"We were headed into the worst economic decline of the previous administration and that has now been reversed," he said. "What does Mitt Romney want to do? He wants to employ the exact same policies that got us into this mess in the first place. After his party drove the car into the ditch, he's asking for the keys back."
Barrett and Big Bird
Priebus stopped by Waukesha before heading to a GOP fundraiser in Milwaukee that raised about $2.8 million for the campaign, according to the Journal Sentinel. Ryan was the headliner at the event, which also was attended by U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson and 200 guests.
Before the fundraiser got under way at the Pfister Hotel, Democratic Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett held a press conference just blocks away to announce his support for another public figure who has recently been thrust into the political arena.
Riffing off a remark made by Romney in the presidential debate Wednesday, Barrett stood side by side with Big Bird from "Sesame Street," casting his official endorsement for the children's television character.
Barrett said his children grew up watching "Sesame Street," as do most other households across the country.
"Over 80 percent of children in this country watch 'Sesame Street' and watch Big Bird, so why in God's name would he want to go after 'Sesame Street' when the people in this country want him to go after Wall Street?" Barrett asked.
When asked about Ryan's contribution to the Romney campaign, Barrett said Wisconsin initially saw a bump in support for Romney, but that support has waned as people learn more about Ryan's budget proposal and his plan to overhaul Medicare. Even Senate candidate Tommy Thompson is backing away from "the Ryan plan," Barrett said.
"I think now as people are looking more closely at that plan, they are saying, 'Wait a minute. We don't want this," Barrett said.
Patch editor Jeff Rumage contributed to this story