Will Wisconsin affect the presidential race?

Combination picture of US President Barack Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney Image copyright AP

The Wisconsin result is horrible for US President Barack Obama, and great news for Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

It is a triumph for Republicans and a humiliation for Democrats. Is that overplaying it? I do not think so.

Of course, it may turn out to be a flash in the pan, the hot topic of the blogs and cable channels for a week, before being forgotten. And it is true that much of the week will be a battle for interpretation: does it matter or not?

It makes Wisconsin feel like a new swing state, when it should be safely in the Democratic column.

The fight was about something real and substantial, certainly not just personalities. It was over the role and power of unions, which could be a big issue in the presidential campaign.

Are they too big for their boots - over-cosseted - or are they standing up for ordinary folk in the face of rapacious bosses?

The protests that led to the recall election were portrayed by some as the renaissance of union power, and taken alongside Occupy Wall Street as sign of a new dynamism on the left. That did not work so well.

Then Mr Obama stayed away. Wise, you might say. But it hardly makes him look like a man of courage and high principle.

His backers in the labour movement may not say "chicken" out loud but there are bound to be mutterings in the ranks. Will they be there for him, if he was not there for them ?

All this may be so much detail. But in much cruder terms this result is a psychological boost for one side, a blow to the other.

The Republicans are still just about the underdogs in the presidential election, and anything that makes them feel and look like winners is important.