WASHINGTON -- If the selection of Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) as Mitt Romney's running mate were going to move the poll numbers anywhere, Ryan's home state would be the most likely place. Two new automated surveys in Wisconsin, which show the race between Romney and President Barack Obama narrowing to a virtual tie, appear to confirm that the pick worked there.
The latest state survey, released Tuesday by Public Policy Polling (a firm that also conducts automated surveys for local Democratic campaigns), shows a near tie, with 48 percent supporting Romney and 47 percent supporting Obama. A Wisconsin survey conducted by PPP in July found Obama leading by 6 percentage points (50 to 44 percent), so the new poll represents a slight gain for Romney and a slight decline for Obama.
Similarly, another automated telephone poll by Rasmussen Reports, conducted last week, found a 1-point edge for Romney (48 to 47 percent) among likely voters in Wisconsin. A Rasmussen poll in late July had Obama ahead by 3 points (49 to 46 percent).
But while the two new automated surveys show a rough tie, a third live-interviewer poll by CNN and ORC International last week, after the Ryan announcement, gave Obama a 4-point edge (49 to 45 percent) among all registered voters in Wisconsin.
Two more polls conducted just before the Ryan announcement by Quinnipiac University and the Marquette University Law School used methodologies very similar to those of CNN. They found Obama ahead by margins of 5 and 6 percentage points respectively, just slightly larger than CNN's 4-point post-Ryan margin.
The HuffPost Pollster Wisconsin chart, which uses all of the public polling data to plot trend lines, indicates a narrowing race. Its current estimate shows Obama leading by over 3 points (49.1 to 45.9 percent). However, if we adjust the sensitivity of the lines to give greater weight to the more recent polls, the chart shows a near tie.
Other measures offer additional evidence that Ryan's selection could make a difference. All three of the most recent polls found that Ryan has a net positive personal rating in Wisconsin -- and a better rating than Romney. More voters in the state view Ryan favorably than unfavorably.
For the moment, the results in Wisconsin present something of a puzzle. The VP pick appears to have narrowed the race there, but the two automated surveys show a more dramatic narrowing than CNN's live-interviewer poll. More polls coming soon should clarify where Wisconsin stands.
Meanwhile, one additional clue is that the two presidential campaigns have yet to make a major commitment to television ads in Wisconsin. Either their internal polls do not yet find the same dramatic narrowing as the two most recent automated polls, or they too are waiting to see more data.
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