MU Poll: Romney makes gains in Wis., Pres. Obama still slightly ahead

MILWAUKEE — The latest Marquette University Law School poll released on Wednesday, October 17th shows President Barack Obama ahead of challenger Mitt Romney by just one percentage point (49%-48%) among likely voters in Wisconsin.

The latest Marquette University Law School poll was completed before Tuesday night's second presidential debate.

Marquette Law Poll Director Charles Franklin says the presidential race is as close as it possibly could be. According to Franklin, President Obama was ahead by 11 points just two weeks ago and 14 points a month ago.

"This re-sets the race at least for this final three weeks leading up to election day," said Franklin.

Among voters who watched the first presidential debate, Romney is up 50%-48% over the President. The President is up 50%-42% among likely voters who didn't watch the first debate.

"Data from polling around the country has shown what an unusually heavy impact the first presidential debate had compared to the majority of presidential debates in the past," Franklin said.

Romney is widely perceived to have won the first presidential debate. Of the 870 likely voters polled in Wisconsin, 73% say they watched the debate, while 27% did not. Among those who did watch, Romney holds the edge. For those who did not watch, President Obama is ahead.

President Obama lost his lead among women voters in Wisconsin. Two weeks ago he led Romney by 25%, and now leads by 4%.

Franklin says four polls including the Marquette Law School Poll show the presidential race in Wisconsin is within the margin of error.

The poll also confirms that Obama no longer leads Romney in every "issue area". In two weeks time, Romney has pulled ahead in a few issue areas. 52% of likely voters say Romney will do a better job handling the budget deficit problems compared to the 45% who said President Obama is better suited for the job.

President Obama still holds a slight lead in the polls on issues like foreign policy, taxes, health care and social issues.

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak is the vice chair of the Democratic National Committee. He is spending time in Wisconsin because the state is up for grabs.

"We believe we're ahead, but we believe it's a tight race and as a mayor from the state next door, I've followed Wisconsin politics, and it's never over until it's over," Rybak said.

State Senator Alberta Darling is co-chair of the Romney campaign in Wisconsin. She says the first presidential debate moved independent voters into Romney's column.

"It shows he's made a great deal of progress in showing a contrast with President Obama. There's a very clear decision to be made and very clear choices," Sen. Darling said.

According to the Marquette University Law School Poll, Congressman Paul Ryan's favorable numbers went up after the vice presidential debate, while Vice President Joe Biden's went down. Before the debate Congressman Ryan's favorable/unfavorable rating was 46/41, and after the debate it went up to 50/40. Vice President Biden's favorable/unfavorable rating changed from 49/41 to 44/47 after the debate.

The Marquette University Law School Poll shows the U.S. Senate race in Wisconsin tightening. Tommy Thompson polls one point higher than Congresswomen Tammy Baldwin among likely voters, 46%-45%. 

"The Senate race did not tighten because of the presidential debate but tightened because of events here in the state because of advertising," Franklin said.

Baldwin's image has taken a hit since the last Marquette Law School Poll. She has a 32% favorable/47% unfavorable rating compared to her 40% favorable/40% unfavorable rating from two weeks ago. Thompson's favorable rating has barely changed since the last Marquette University Law School Poll. He currently has a 37% favorable/50% unfavorable rating.

When asked which U.S. Senate candidate "cares about people like you", 47% of likely voters chose Baldwin and 41% chose Thompson.

The polling initiative is led by Professor Charles Franklin, visiting professor of law and public policy, and a nationally recognized expert in polling and voter analyses.

"Right at the moment both of those races are dead tied. There's no better term for it. You almost can't get more tied than what we're seeing right now.  Given how the state has swung in the past year, this is a lot of change in the past six weeks, with rising Democratic tide and now rising Republican tide and where that's left us is a flip of a coin at this point," Franklin said.

One more poll is planned to be released on Halloween -- one week before the election.

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