Wisconsin's eighth Congressional district has been swinging back and forth between the two major parties in recent years. The incumbent Republican was swept in 2010's mid-term elections and is looking to be re-elected. But local and national Democrats think their party has a chance at re-taking the seat.
Republican Reid Ribble won northeastern Wisconsin's eighth district over a two term Democrat two years ago. Before that it was held mostly by Republicans for the better part of a decade.
At a Green Bay campaign stop that also featured Senatorial candidate Tommy Thompson Ribble took a moment for a back slap.
Congress has been derided as "do nothing" this term. But Ribble says the House passed dozens of bills, almost half of them with some bi-partisan support. But he says they went nowhere in the Democratically-controlled Senate.
He's also voted repeatedly to repeal the Affordable Care Act, votes he defends, "Yeah I think it's worthwhile. It wasn't just one vote we repeated 33 times. It was the dismantling of certain things. Even things the president agreed with, the 1099 provision which he signed."
That was back in 2011. It removed a tax reporting provision that was seen as bad for small businesses.
Ribble is on the Ag Committee which passed a Farm Bill in committee but not in the full House. He serves on the House Budget Committee, which is headed by Paul Ryan.
The proposed budget would reduce the number of college students who would qualify for Pell Grants by lowering the income threshold for qualification. Ribble says it's a necessary move, "And no one ever wants to take a look at what is the government doing that's driving those prices up. Flattening Pell grants was the appropriate thing to do. Of course anytime in the nomenclature of the day anytime you lower the rate of growth it's considered a cut in Washington."
The provision would return the Pell program to pre-stimulus spending of 2008.
It's a personal issue for Democratic challenger Jamie Wall. He was the first in his family to go to college and went on to receive a Rhodes Scholarship, "I'm sad to say the budget Congressman Reid Ribble went on to craft as a member of the House Budget Committee doesn't view this as a priority. In fact the budget would cut the average Pell Grant by 45 percent and would affect 10 million students across the country.
On his own campaign stops Wall attacks Ribble for supporting Paul Ryan's proposal to phase Medicare into a voucher program, "He's trying to pretend he bears no responsibility for what's happened in Washington. He's trying to pretend he hasn't cast the votes he had which would dismantle the Medicare system. These are the things we should be taking seriously."
Wall says the budget should be balanced but not with upper income tax breaks and oil subsidies. For months he's been saying as much in a proposed "cut of the week," that he says can be made without eroding the social safety net.
Tim Dale is a UW-La Crosse political scientist specializing in Wisconsin's congressional races, "It looks like right now this is Ribble's race to lose."
Green Bay was recently rated the media market with the most televised campaign ads, many of them between Wall and Ribble, though the RNCC recently canceled ads for Ribble, a move some observers see as a sign the national party thinks it's a safe seat.
Dale says eighth district voters tend to favor incumbents. He adds they also vote for individual candidates, not necessarily straight tickets. And the candidates are playing to that, "Reid Ribble wants to win some voters who vote for Obama for president then vote for Ribble in the local congressional district. Same for Wall. Wall wants there to be some people who vote for Romney but think Wall would do well in Congress."
Dale says Wall will have an advantage if there's a large Democratic turnout for president Obama.