Mitt Romney's choice of Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate has boosted the Republican presidential ticket's hopes of winning the Badger State, and it could also help the party claim the state's other Senate seat.
Former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson, a Republican, will take on Democratic Rep. Tammy Baldwin this fall in a race to replace retiring Democratic Sen. Herb Kohl in what many analysts have labeled a tossup.
A poll released Thursday shows that the Romney-Ryan ticket has taken a narrow lead over President Obama in Wisconsin, and experts say Mr. Ryan's popularity with state Republicans could help many GOP candidates on Election Day.
"Ryan's presence on the ballot can really excite the Republican base and perhaps increase their turnout," said Jennifer Duffy, an analyst for Cook Political Report. "And that may turn out to be a good thing for Tommy Thompson and other races down the ballot."
Wisconsin figures to be a key battleground state in this year's presidential race, although no Republican has won it since 1984.
Mr. Obama took the state by 14 points in 2008, but lingering dissatisfaction with his performance has contributed to a recent GOP resurgence in the state that has included the ascent of Republicans like Gov. Scott Walker and Sen. Ron Johnson.
The president has slipped in polls of Wisconsin voters, going from a consistent favorite over Mr. Romney to now being a one-point underdog, according to a poll released Thursday by Rasmussen Reports.
This comes as good news for Mr. Thompson, as Senate races often mirror presidential races due to voters typically being inclined to support candidates from the same party.
"We do believe it'll be a benefit," said Thompson spokesman Brian Nemoir. "Paul Ryan is from the mold of conservative leadership that sets an agenda and delivers on that, just like Tommy Thompson has in the past."
While Mr. Thompson seeks to align himself with Mr. Ryan, he is widely regarded as a moderate and considerably less conservative than Mr. Ryan and other prominent Republicans in the state.
Ms. Baldwin, who has served in Congress since 1999, has a reputation as a liberal. She hails from Madison, one of the state's largest Democratic strongholds.
A poll this month by Quinnipiac University shows the candidates tied in their Senate race. A poll this month by Marquette University showed Mr. Thompson with a five-point lead but a Rasmussen poll from late July had Ms. Baldwin with a seven-point lead.
Mr. Thompson's centrist reputation could help him with undecided voters, and analysts say endorsements or campaign trail cameos from Mr. Ryan or Mr. Walker — who did not endorse a candidate during the tight GOP Senate primary — could boost his credibility with the right wing.
"There are any number of things that they could do, but exactly what is the question," Ms. Duffy said. "But I don't think the Democrats will let it go unanswered and they will make efforts to fire up their base."
The Baldwin campaign is hoping that Mr. Ryan's presence on the ballot will backfire on both the Romney and Thompson campaigns, by boosting turnout among Wisconsin Democrats who are familiar with the House Budget Committee chairman's economic policies and want to see him defeated.
Baldwin spokesman John Kraus said Mr. Thompson's alignment with the conservative vice presidential candidate could also scare off moderate and undecided voters who are expected to decide the state's Senate and presidential races.
"I know Republicans would like to think that only their side is energized, but Wisconsin Democrats know Ryan and the path he wants to take the country on very well," Mr. Kraus said. "It's a two-way street on that."
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