JANESVILLE, Wis. – Two weeks after the Republican Party's most controversial governor survived a high-stakes recall in Wisconsin, Mitt Romney descended on the state to claim it would fall in the GOP column come November.
"President Obama just assumed from the very beginning that Wisconsin was going to be his. But you know what? We're going to win Wisconsin and we're going to get in the White House," Romney declared Monday at a campaign stop in Janesville, speaking alongside Gov. Scott Walker and other Wisconsin supporters.
No Republican presidential candidate has carried the state since 1984. But Romney and other Republicans are looking at Wisconsin in a new light after Walker survived his recall challenge.
The victory has given Republicans confidence that they can compete against President Obama, who carried the state by 14 points four years ago.
Romney, who is in the middle of a bus tour of six battleground states, assailed Obama for what he described as his "failed record" -- which he said Obama is struggling to campaign on. Riffing off the president's 2008 theme of "hope and change," Romney said: "This time they're going with, we hope to change the subject. And we're not going to let them do that."
Romney campaigned in Wisconsin alongside Walker, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson and Wisconsin's Reince Priebus, chairman of the GOP.
Ryan's hometown of Janesville was hard hit by the economic recession; a General Motors plant used to employ thousands here, but it closed in 2009.
The stop began the fourth day of a five-day bus tour that has already taken Romney from New Hampshire to Pennsylvania to Ohio. Romney also plans to campaign in Iowa on Monday, with a boat tour in Dubuque and a rally in Davenport. He plans to campaign in Michigan on Tuesday.
Walker and Republicans swept into power in 2010, turning the entire state legislature to their side and knocking Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold from office. Obama's campaign is clearly nervous, moving the state from trending toward the president to undecided.
"We are not really a red state or a blue state. We really aren't," said state Sen. Tim Cullen, a moderate Democrat from Janesville who previously worked as a cabinet secretary for Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson. "People in this state split their ticket in huge numbers, so it's not at all unusual to have people vote for Gov. Walker and President Obama."
An Associated Press exit poll of voters in the Walker recall showed a majority said they would vote for Obama in five months.
Still, Republicans are confident in the wake of Walker's 7-point recall win on June 5.
Republicans here point to an energized ground organization they built to keep Walker in office, and Romney inherits a party infrastructure that made 4.5 million voter contacts in recent months and has 26 field offices across the state.
The Obama campaign has been on the ground organizing in Wisconsin but hasn't spent money on advertising for months. Neither Obama nor Romney has run TV ads in the state.
Obama steered clear of Wisconsin during the recall race, never campaigning for the Democratic candidate. Obama's last visit to Wisconsin was in February, at a Master Lock plant in Milwaukee.
Unemployment in Wisconsin has ticked gradually downward this year, falling to 6.7 percent in April, which is lower than the national average. But Janesville, a city of about 60,000, has lagged.
The city's unemployment rate spiked to almost 16 percent in the months after the GM plant closed before gradually falling to 9 percent in April. That is still the seventh highest for any Wisconsin city.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.