By Kevin Bogardus and Amie Parnes - 09/22/12 11:40 PM EDT
President Obama made a campaign stop on Saturday in Wisconsin, saying Mitt Romney "sure can afford" to pay more as part of his argument on tax policy.
At a Milwaukee rally, the president took several shots at the Republican presidential nominee and sought to energize his party’s supporters to help get out the vote in the crucial swing state.
The president also sought to highlight the contrasts between Romney and himself on several issues, including energy, Medicare and taxes. Obama has said he would raise taxes on those making $250,000 or more annually and at the rally he argued against more tax cuts for the wealthy.
“I can afford to pay a little more and Mitt Romney sure can afford to pay a little more,” Obama said. “We don’t build the economy from the top down. We build it from the bottom up.”
The comments come one day after the release of Romney's 2011 tax return.
The rally’s crowd was estimated to be 18,000 and remained upbeat through the rain that started to come down during the event. Supporters would often boo at the mention of Romney, but Obama would cut them off.
“Don’t boo. Vote,” Obama said.
Earlier in the day, Obama attended two fundraisers in Milwaukee. At one of those events, the president hit Romney on the “47 percent” remarks he made at a private fundraiser earlier this year.
“We can't get very far if we're just writing off half the country as a bunch of victims, or presume that somehow they want to be dependent on government or don't want to take responsibility for their own lives,” Obama said.
“Because wherever I travel, folks are working hard. Folks understand everybody has got to take initiative. People understand that we're all responsible for ourselves. But people also understand that we've got obligations to each other.”
In response to the rally, the Romney campaign said Obama’s policies are not working for the country.
“After an absence of 220 days, President Obama has finally returned to Wisconsin — a state he won by over 14 points four years ago. In Wisconsin, and all over America, people are tired of the president’s false attacks and broken promises. Incomes are falling, costs are rising, and jobs are scarce,” said Amanda Henneberg, a Romney campaign spokeswoman.
“Mitt Romney has a plan for a stronger middle class that will result in more jobs, higher take-home pay, and a real recovery for our economy,” Henneberg added.
Republicans are optimistic about winning the state in the presidential race this November. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) was able to fend off a recall challenge earlier this year — a huge defeat for Democrats and their allies in labor after he forced through legislation in 2011 that banned collective bargaining rights for some public workers. Parts of that law were overturned last week in a court ruling.
Recent polls, however, show Obama leads Romney in the Badger State. A Quinnipiac University/New York Times/CBS News poll this week indicated that Obama led Romney 51 percent to 45 percent in the state.
Asked why Obama was campaigning in the state, Jen Psaki, the traveling campaign secretary for the Obama campaign, said Obama refused to cede the state to Romney despite the fact that he was up in the polls.
“We’re going to run here, like in any battleground state, like we’re five points behind until Election Day,” she said. “And today is about energizing our supporters, reminding them of what's at stake in the election, making sure they're getting out registering their friends, getting to the polls.”
At the same time, she added, "We've always thought Wisconsin would be harder for us this year than it was four years ago."
When Obama landed in the state on Saturday afternoon, he was not greeted by Walker. But Psaki told reporters that baseball hall of famer Hank Aaron would be attending Obama's fundraiser in the state.
“We’ll take Hank Aaron over Governor Walker any day of the week on our trip to Wisconsin,” she said.