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Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2012

Issue of the Week: Is Wisconsin in Play?

Plus: Hero of the Week

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Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney made a stunning pick over the weekend when he selected Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan to be his running mate.

On the one hand, it makes sense. Romney has had a hard time exciting the right-wing base of his party, and Ryan and his cut-everything-except-the-Pentagon budget is a tea party favorite.

On the other hand, the choice makes no sense, since Romney and Ryan's budget policies will alienate seniors, those under 55 who will see their Medicare benefits become "vouchers," women, veterans, minorities, gays, students, low-income voters, independents and moderates—the 99%, if you will.

But Ryan is Romney's pick and the Republican ticket and GOP candidates across the country will have to rally around Ryan's radical budget proposal that they voted for and then tried to run away from as their constituents learned what was really in the budget.

So the question is: Will Wisconsin rally around Romney, now that he chose Ryan as a running mate, and turn into a red state?

That won't be easy, since the state hasn't voted for a Republican presidential candidate since the landslide re-election of Ronald Reagan in 1984 and President Obama currently holds a healthy lead over Romney in all recent polling. But over the last two years Wisconsin has become the testing ground for radical right-wing policies on the state level, and Ryan has been a leader of radical right-wing policies at the federal level. So is the historically progressive Wisconsin moving rightward, and could having Ryan on the ticket put Wisconsin in play? The answer is not clear.

The Romney campaign has already opened 25 "victory centers" in Wisconsin to respond to the Obama campaign's solid ground game. That said, a Romney representative conceded in a recent Wispolitics.com forum that other states are more likely to swing Romney's way, like North Carolina, Virginia and Indiana. Wisconsin was pretty far down the list of Romney's targeted states.

We expect the Paul Ryan choice to give the Romney/Ryan ticket a short-term positive bump, but we also believe that if the Obama camp runs an aggressive campaign, Wisconsin will again support Obama, as it did in 2008. Once Wisconsinites—like the rest of the country—get to take a good, long look at the details of Ryan's budget and how it will affect their lives, they will realize that it is not based on our good Wisconsin values.

Furthermore, despite Ryan's very right-wing budget that seriously affects the middle class, his voting record hasn't been to lower our budget deficit. Much the opposite: He voted for all of President George W. Bush's budget-busting tax breaks, supported the bank and auto bailouts even though he says he doesn't believe that government should interfere in the free market, would give multimillionaires like Romney and himself additional major tax cuts, and wants deregulation that would make aging Americans even more vulnerable to the abuses of Wall Street and the insurance industry.

We think that Romney and Ryan will have a hard time explaining that to Wisconsin and the rest of the nation.

Romney made an interesting choice in Paul Ryan. Was it a smart one?

Heroes of the Week: Blue Lotus Farm and Retreat Center Volunteers

Susan Bliffert joined her husband, Fred, in rehabilitating 64 acres of family-owned land in Newburg, Wis., from a summer home in disarray to an inspiring day camp for anyone with special needs and all people striving to improve themselves. Blue Lotus Farm and Retreat Center (5501 County Trunk M, Newburg) was founded as a nonprofit in 2003 and mainly serves at-risk, physically disadvantaged and mentally challenged groups and individuals by providing recreational programs and curative workshops in a picturesque milieu.

"We wanted to share this beautiful property and provide ample opportunity to involve the community in the process," Susan Bliffert said. "We are tremendously blessed with openhearted volunteers, who are the life of our organization."

Blue Lotus takes pride in offering a safe, peaceful environment in which everyone can fearlessly enjoy the splendors of nature. Thus, the organization is always in need of volunteers to help facilitate the 1,000-plus visitors each season and assist with yard maintenance and general handyman work. Monetary donations are also needed for property upgrades and should be sent to P.O. Box 211, Mequon, WI, 53092. For additional information about the organization, program options or donations, call 262-675-2473 or visit www.bluelotusfarm.org; regarding volunteer inquiries, please ask for Becca Fondriest or email her at becca@bluelotusfarm.org.