updated 10/2/2004 12:22:23 AM ET 2004-10-02T04:22:23

In a state that hasn't voted for a Republican for president since 1984, Wisconsin is in the must-win column for both camps.  Al Gore took this state in 2000 by less than 6,000 votes. 

George Bush won in the Fox Valley, and Republicans think he can do it again in the mostly blue-collar area. 

“We watch Packer games on Sundays, we hunt in the fall and we snowmobile in the winter,” says Republican Rep. Mark Green. “I think the candidate who represents those values is the candidate who'll win. I think that’s George Bush.”

With an unemployment rate lower than the national average, it's the economy that makes Wisconsin one of Bush's most promising blue states to win. 

But is the state experiencing some economic troubles?  Among the battleground states, Wisconsin relies mostly on manufacturing—  and 69,000 of those jobs have been lost since January 2001. Much of the political focus also remains on the state's number one industry, dairy. Wisconsin leads the nation in cheese production, yet Wisconsin has lost half its dairy farms in the last two decades.

Joel Narges raises dairy cows on the same farm that's been in his family for four generations.  He fears the farm won't be around to pass on to his children.  “I just feel Kerry will be the person who will help farmers and farmer issues, and I have the track record of President Bush without implementation of some of the 2002 farm bills as evidence that we're not going to get it from him.”

Proof that this state is so important? John Kerry chose to spend his crucial pre-debate days here.


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