Poll: Wisconsin Presidential Race Tightens, Ryan An 'Asset'

Kyle Leighton

Rep. Paul Ryan's inclusion on the GOP ticket hasn't handed Wisconsin over to Republicans just yet, but it's put the state within reach, according to a new poll from Marquette Law School.

President Obama gets 49 percent of likely voters in the new survey, while presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney has 46 percent. Three weeks ago, Marquette found Obama led 50 percent to 45 percent. The Wisconsin race has tightened in Marquette's polling -- In May, Obama led by 8 points.

"The data here is consistent with Ryan being an asset to the campaign in Wisconsin," professor Charles Franklin, director of the Marquette Law School poll, said in a presentation on the poll. "The value of this selection is higher in Wisconsin than it is nationally."

Even if Ryan does help the cause in Wisconsin, Romney faces challenges there that reflect a broader struggle -- namely, a problematic personal rating and perception that he's not connecting with voters. There's a major imbalance between Obama and Romney's favorability ratings, with the president outpacing the former governor by far.

Obama has a 52 percent favorable/43 percent unfavorable split; Romney's split is 35 percent favorable/45 percent unfavorable. When asked whether each candidate "cares about me," 57 percent said Obama met that description, while 31 percent said the same of Romney. The two men were closer on the question of who's a "strong leader": 52 percent of registered voters said that about Obama, while 46 percent said Romney is.

A poll from Democratic-leaning firm Public Policy Polling released Tuesday showed Romney leading by 1 point, but most polls of Wisconsin have shown a small Obama lead. The overall PollTracker Average of Wisconsin shows the president with a 1.1 percent lead.

In general, Ryan may be able to boost Romney even if the state electorate isn't exactly thrilled with the top of the ticket, especially if the race is very close.

"Since his selection, both his favorable and unfavorable ratings have increased by five percentage points, to 41 percent favorable and 34 percent unfavorable, with 24 percent unable to rate him," the Marquette poll memo reads. "Fifty-eight percent said Romney's choice of Ryan reflects favorably on his ability to make important presidential decisions, while 31 percent said it reflected unfavorably. Ryan is seen as qualified to serve as president, if that should become necessary, by 55 percent, and as not qualified by 37 percent."

The Marquette poll used 706 interviews with registered voters (501 by landline, 205 via cell phone) and a sample of 576 likely voters within that conducted Aug. 16-19. There was a sampling error of 3.8 percent for registered voters and 4.2 percent for likely voters.