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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 December, 2003, 19:41 GMT
State profile: Wisconsin
Wisconsin has a Democrat as governor, its two senators are Democrats, half of its US representatives are Democrats and it backed Bill Clinton heavily in 1992 and 1996.

It looks safe for the Democrats, sounds safe for the Democrats and feels safe for the Democrats. But in 2000, Al Gore barely scraped home (just 5,708 votes ahead of George W Bush).

Population: 5,363,675 (ranked 18 among states)
Governor: Jim Doyle (D)
Electoral college votes: 10

Part of the reason for the tight result was the strong Green Party showing, part was the legacy of its successful then-Governor Tommy Thompson (now President Bush's secretary for Health and Human Services).

His tax-cutting, welfare-reforming and school voucher agenda was overwhelmingly popular in Wisconsin and attracted attention from around the US.

House of Representatives:
4 Democrat, 4 Republican
Senate: 2 Democrat

But that was not all: Wisconsin is a state of contrasts and idiosyncrasy - the state produced the Republican Party and the Progressive Movement of Robert Lafollette. This streak of invention is rooted in the state's history, since Wisconsin was largely settled by immigrants from Germany and Scandinavia.

The Progressive Movement advocated active government intervention to help the average citizen, an idea adopted from German liberals and rooted in the idea of bureaucratic rationalisation.

2000: Bush 48%, Gore 48%
1996: Clinton 49%, Dole 39%
1992: Clinton 41%, Bush 37%, Perot 22%
In the 1990s Wisconsin continued to set its own course, this time in leading the export boom and rejecting earlier ideas about the potential of central planning.

The state's highly skilled and productive workforce that serves high-tech manufacturing industries such as Joy Global, Allen Bradley and Harley-Davidson has fuelled these changes.

Those industries were hit hard by the recession, and steel tariffs were not popular in this steel-consuming state. Agriculture, and dairy farming in particular, remain important to the state's identity and economy.

It looks like a battleground state, sounds like a battleground state and feels like a battleground state. And it is.


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