Democrats excuse Wisc. defeat as Republicans tout a swing victory

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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President Barack Obama’s campaign tried to excuse and downplay the Democrats’ 7-point defeat in Wisconsin, while Republican supporters argued the results will swing the state toward the GOP in November.

“While tonight’s outcome was not what we had hoped for … hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites from all walks of life took a stand against the politics of division and against the flood of secret and corporate money,” said a statement released by the Obama campaign’s Wisconsin director, Tripp Wellde.

Wellde cited exit polls that showed that Obama would win 52 percent of the vote against Gov. Mitt Romney. The poll “clearly demonstrate a very steep pathway for Mitt Romney to recover in the state.”

But the exit polls underestimated Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s victory and predicted that the race would be much closer than it was.

Several Democrats, including Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, blamed the defeat on the GOP’s advantage in advertising funds, despite the Democrats’ offsetting advantage in union funds and staff.

The defeat “could be” a factor in November, said O’Malley, who chairs the Democratic Governors Association.

GOP backers said the Wisconsin win is more bad news for the Obama campaign. (RELATED: MSNBC declares Obama winner of the Wisconsin recall)

In the last week, the Obama campaign has been hit by bad economic and employment news, as well as damaging comments from several surrogates, including President Bill Clinton and N.J. Mayor Corey Booker.

GOP backers were optimistic.

The vote “is clearly going to put Wisconsin into play in November,” said Karl Rove, the top political adviser to President George. W. Bush.

“It is a big night for conservatives and Republicans, but it is a bigger night for America,” said Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee.

“It is going to be late night in [Obama’s headquarters in] Chicago,” said Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. They “are going to be very worried about these results.”

Obama “is in deep trouble and I think we’ll see a big [polling] swing in this election in the next week or two,” columnist Charles Krauthammer said on Fox news.

Likely GOP presidential nominee Gov. Mitt Romney issued a cautious statement.

“I congratulate Scott Walker on his victory in Wisconsin,” he said in a statement. “Gov. Walker has demonstrated over the past year what sound fiscal policies can do to turn an economy around, and I believe that in November, voters across the country will demonstrate that they want the same in Washington, D.C.”

“Tonight, voters said ‘no’ to the tired, liberal ideas of yesterday, and ‘yes’ to fiscal responsibility and a new direction.”

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