Outside groups target Wisconsin for fall elections

Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. – The League of Conservation Voters kicked off its effort Tuesday to recruit 3,000 volunteers in Madison and Milwaukee as it works for President Bush’s defeat this November.

The league is the latest interest group to set up shop in Wisconsin ahead of the election. Joining it are anti-Bush groups such as America Coming Together and those that support the president’s policies such as Citizens for a Sound Economy.

Rodd Freitag, a University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire political science professor, said the emergence of the groups is a result of Wisconsin’s status as a key battleground state in the 2004 presidential election.

He said the groups – and the advertising some are likely to run here over the next six months – can have two effects.

They can raise the awareness and interest of voters in the election, or they can turn people off if they go too far, he said.

“At some point it seems to be too much and starts to turn voters off,” Freitag said. “It depends on how nasty and how long it goes on here.”

Mike Palamuso, Wisconsin campaign director for the League of Conservation Voters, said the group plans to recruit 3,000 volunteers in the Madison and Milwaukee areas with the goal of knocking on the doors of 150,000 households.

The group is part of the Environmental Victory Project, which also intends to target swing voters in parts of Florida, New Mexico and Oregon through door-knocking, phone calls, mailings and television advertising. The ads are likely to begin in the fall.

Palamuso said the group used voter data to find specific wards in the Madison and Milwaukee areas with a high number of swing voters. The plan is to knock on each of the 150,000 doors three times between May and the election.

The league did not have a heavy presence in Wisconsin during the 2000 presidential election.

“That’s the main reason why we’re taking this different approach because quite frankly we can’t risk having four more years of this administration in office,” Palamuso said.

Citizens for a Sound Economy, an organization that supports President Bush’s tax cuts, started working in Wisconsin in October. State director Cameron Sholty said the organization likely won’t run TV ads in Wisconsin. Instead, it focuses on knocking on doors, posting yard signs and sending letters to the editor, “versus launching an air assault for or against a candidate based on the issues.”

The group also plans to educate voters about the stances of other candidates, including those in the U.S. Senate race involving Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis.

“Our ability is real-time grassroots campaigning,” Sholty said.

Americans Coming Together, which supports Democratic candidates, will canvass Wisconsin neighborhoods, go door to door and telephone voters, state director Tamara Pogue said.

“This is like the sort of way campaigns used to be done,” she said.

On the Web:

America Coming Together: http://www.americacomingtogether.com/

Citizens for a Sound Economy: http://www.cse.org/

League of Conservation Voters: http://www.lcv.org