By Steve Jagler Special to Published Mar 20, 2008 at 11:11 AM

Wisconsin will be among a handful of "purple" states that will decide the presidential election in November.

That prediction was among several observations made by a panel of political experts at a Milwaukee Press Club Newsmaker Luncheon Wednesday.

"I think it (Wisconsin) will be one of the four or five states that decide who wins the White House," said Mike Tate, a Democratic consultant who oversaw Howard Dean's Wisconsin campaign in 2004 and has done work for Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle.

Tate said the Democratic presidential nomination has a "50/50" chance of going all the way down to being decided at the party's convention Aug. 25-28 in Denver. The longer the race drags on between Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton, the greater the disadvantage for the Democrats against presumptive Republican nominee Sen. John McCain, Tate said.

"As someone who works in this, I really want to end this race," Tate said. "It'll be a battle royale for the super delegates, I guess."

Mark Graul, a Republican consultant who served as executive director of President George W. Bush's Wisconsin campaign in 2004, not-so-jokingly acknowledged that he would like to see the Democrats continue to beat each other up for as long as possible.

"Absolutely ... Why stop it now?" Graul said with a smile.

Tate said Obama will be politically wounded by the Clinton machine.

"There's no one better at bloodying you up than the Clintons," Tate said, adding that he believes the Democratic nominee, whomever that may be, will be a strong candidate in the general election. "I think this is a great year for us to take back the White House. Four years ago, we go out-hustled by people like Mark Graul."

The panelists on Wednesday were uncertain about whether they believe the Democrats will run late primaries or caucuses in Florida and Michigan. Tate said one compromise that may be in the works is to seat the delegates of those two states, which violated the national party's rules by moving up their primaries, but deny them any votes at the convention.

However, Tate said he does not believe the Democratic super delegates will overrule the votes of the people in the primaries and caucuses.

Panelist Greg Borowski, a political reporter, said he was impressed with how Obama discussed the issue of race relations in America Tuesday, but the verdict is out on whether that speech will translate into more votes.

As for winning Wisconsin in November, Graul said McCain was the best candidate in the GOP field, even though McCain has alienated some of the more hard-core conservatives who disagree with him on issues such as illegal immigrants, tax cuts and campaign finance reforms.

"McCain's got that maverick spirit that people like about him ... McCain give us a chance (in Wisconsin)," Graul said.

"I think John is a great candidate for Wisconsin," Tate said. "We love personalities here ... We like our Russ Feingolds and Tommy Thompsons."

Wednesday's discussion was moderated by president Jeff Mayers.

Steve Jagler Special to

Steve Jagler is executive editor of BizTimes in Milwaukee and is past president of the Milwaukee Press Club. BizTimes provides news and operational insight for the owners and managers of privately held companies throughout southeastern Wisconsin.

Steve has won several journalism awards as a reporter, a columnist and an editor. He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

When he is not pursuing the news, Steve enjoys spending time with his wife, Kristi, and their two sons, Justin and James. Steve can be reached at