The Cheesehead Effect, Part Two: What it means for Oshkosh

Welcome to Oshkosh (It's where the star is).

Welcome to Oshkosh (It's where the star is).

Welcome to Oshkosh, Wis. As you can see, we’re smack dab in the middle of this great state. Oshkosh is not quite part of the Green Bay area, it’s just outside of Milwaukee’s realm and it’s even farther (physically and ideologically) from the Madison bubble. The Fox Valley — and Oshkosh, especially — tops the bell curve when it comes to Wisconsin.

That’s why, in part, the area is a stopping point for so many presidential candidates. Since 1985, the Fox Valley has hosted 11 presidential candidates or sitting presidents, including three in 2012 alone. The best illustration of this was Feb. 15, 2008, when Sen. John McCain and then-Sen. Barack Obama both came to Oshkosh on the same day. McCain held a town hall meeting at EAA, and an Obama rally packed the Kolf Sports Center.

Throughout these election years, Wisconsin was viewed as a swing state, one that could turn red or blue in any given year (although the last time Sconnies went red was for Ronald Reagan in 1984). With three months left in the campaign, Wisconsin now has one of its own on the presidential ballot, and conservatives have built a momentum unlike anything the state has seen in recent years. It was evident on Sunday in Waukesha, as Kenosha native and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, Oshkosh’s Sen. Ron Johnson (who unseated longtime Sen. Russ Feingold in 2010) and Wauwatosa’s Gov. Scott Walker (survivor of a hard-fought June 5 recall election) stood onstage behind Ryan.

The question we (Jessie Opoien and Jeff Bollier) have debated off and on since Mitt Romney announced Ryan was his VP selection on Saturday is whether Wisconsin can expect more or less attention from the campaigns as a result.

We want to create an ongoing conversation, with your input on two questions: Does Ryan’s nomination increase Oshkosh’s chances of getting a presidential candidate visit (or several), and will it have an impact on how Wisconsin votes in November?

First, some background.

As Jessie detailed earlier this week, Romney and Ryan have already held one rally in Wisconsin, in the Republican stronghold of Waukesha. Neither campaign has announced plans to visit Wisconsin in the near future, and the Romney campaign isn’t planning to reconsider running TV ads in the state until after the Republican National Convention at the end of the month.

But Romney’s decision to select Ryan has to put a bullseye on Wisconsin for both campaigns. It could be viewed as a failure if Romney doesn’t carry Ryan’s home state. And Obama/Biden have to be looking at recent projections, these from the excellent Nate Silver, that show Wisconsin is still firmly blue and theirs for the taking.

You can discount the polls all you want, but even Wisconsin-based writers have suggested a Cheesehead VP doesn’t cinch a victory for Romney.

Given the push-and-pull in a state that’s been given a 9.4 percent chance to tip the scales in the presidential election between the hometown candidate and the traditional favorite, it seems inevitable that Wisconsin is a state neither campaign will want to ignore.

And the logic that works in Oshkosh’s favor remains the same: We’re the embodiment of the Badger State’s political landscape. We voted for Obama. And Scott Walker (both times).  Both parties have strong presences here (the county parties’ offices are just half a mile away from each other on Main Street). Democrats represent us on the state level, Republicans nationally.

Oshkosh, in short, is up for grabs.

So what do you see in store for Sawdust City in the next three months? Do we keep our streak alive, or see Romney and Ryan focus on stronger Republican districts while Obama and Biden stay in Madison and Milwaukee?

And do you think Ryan’s inclusion on the ticket automatically turns Wisconsin Badger red, or is his influence limited? Who will win Oshkosh’s vote?

— Jessie Opoien and Jeff Bollier

About Jessie Opoien

Jessie Opoien joined the Oshkosh Northwestern as a reporter in December 2011. Politics and education issues are her specialties, but she loves to tell a good story regardless of the topic. You can find her on Twitter as @jessieopie.
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