Wisconsin became one of several crucial states to watch this election cycle, with a highly contested Senate race and both presidential campaigns focusing many of their efforts in the state.
Voters were aware of the state’s importance, as a record number of Wisconsin voters went to the polls this fall.
The recall elections turned Wisconsin into a testing ground for the state’s parties, who knew they would likely need the state’s 10 electoral votes in 2012 in order to get their candidate to the White House.
The state’s importance held up throughout the election cycle. President Barack Obama, who was re-elected and won the state 53 to 46 percent, made various stops in Wisconsin, including one in Milwaukee the weekend before the election. Two of his stops were in Madison, one of which took place on campus at Bascom Mall, where 30,000 students and community members participated.
Obama’s opponent, former Gov. Mitt Romney, R-Mass., picked a Wisconsin Congressman as his running mate – the influential budget wonk Rep. Paul Ryan. Along with a couple of visits from Romney, his running mate made stops across the state and referred to his Wisconsin roots often in speeches elsewhere.
In the Senate race, longtime Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, won 54.1 percent to 45.9 percent against former Gov. Tommy Thompson. The race was among the highest in spending in Senate races and an overwhelming amount of the advertising in it was negative.
Thompson faced a close primary challenge from businessman Eric Hovde, and many thought the race pushed Thompson too far to the right. After much spending and a heated primary race, Thompson prevailed. By that time, however, Baldwin’s popularity was increasing, and she led in most polls until Election Day. With her election, she will become the first openly gay Senator in the nation’s history.
Republicans fared much better in the state Legislature races. They held their large majority in the Assembly, where they will have a 60-39 majority when the next legislative session begins. This summer, the Democrats took control of the state Senate during the recall elections. With the fall elections, the Republicans took back the state Senate, where they will have an 18-15 majority.