Obama takes 'win the future' theme to critical Wisconsin battleground

President Obama on Wednesday is taking his “winning the future” theme to Wisconsin, a state that swung to Republicans in 2010 and is critical to his reelection effort.
 
The president and his team expected significant losses in the November midterms, but there were a handful of defeats that caused more heartburn than others.
 

ADVERTISEMENT

Many were in the critical battleground of Wisconsin, where Obama will tour a power technology company a day after the State of the Union.
 
Aides believe the message of the address is tailor-made for the Midwest, an area critical to the White House’s campaign. The speech focused on making the U.S. competitive in a global economy, a worry for the small manufacturers and workers in the industrial heartland.
 
White House aides said this week they think Obama's message of keeping America competitive will play well not only in Wisconsin but in neighboring swing states like Michigan, Iowa and Minnesota.
 
Obama won Wisconsin, Michigan, the key battleground state of Ohio and even Indiana in 2008. Losing Wisconsin, a state he won by 14 percentage points just two years ago, would be a heavy blow.
 
Few of the setbacks Obama and Democrats experienced in the midterms were as thorough and complete as those in Wisconsin.
 
The White House handpicked Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett (D) to hold the state’s governor’s mansion after Democrat Jim Doyle said he would retire, only to see his candidacy go down.
 
Obama worked to save Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) to no avail, as the incumbent went down to political neophyte Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonSenate panels to interview former Hunter Biden business associate Friday Trump and advisers considering firing FBI director after election: WaPo Biden: Johnson should be 'ashamed' for suggesting family profited from their name MORE (R).
 
Rep. David Obey’s seat, which the Wisconsin Democrat held for 41 years, went to Republican Sean DuffySean DuffyCNN's Ana Navarro to host Biden roundtable on making 'Trump a one-term president' Bottom line McCarthy blasts Pelosi's comments on Trump's weight MORE, who previously was best known for a stint on MTV’s “The Real World.”
 
But it was Barrett’s loss that really had White House aides reaching for the Tums.

Officials hailed Barrett throughout 2010 as a bright spot when other swing-state governors’ offices in Ohio and Pennsylvania were already being moved into the Red column. He ended up losing to Republican Gov. Scott Walker by 6 points.
 
The economy, not healthcare, was what drove voters away from Democrats last November.
 
Exit polls from the midterms showed that four out of 10 voters said their economic situation has worsened since Obama took office, according to The New York Times.

But the economy is slowly improving and, perhaps more importantly, Obama’s messaging on the issue is too.


Obama’s State of the Union address focused heavily on the economy and increasing America’s competitiveness in the global economy, as the president again tacked hard to the center with his economic messaging.
 
Wisconsin Democrats think that new focus will help Obama in their state, but they warn that Obama will not run away in the election like in 2008.
 
Mike Tate, chairman of the state Democratic Party, said that he thinks both 2008 and 2010 were “anomalies.”
 
“I was never under any illusion that we were a solidly Blue state,” Tate said. “We’ve always been a classic purple state.”
 
Tate said he envisions Obama competing in Wisconsin in battles more like 2000 and 2004, where the Democratic presidential candidate “squeaked out” a narrow victory.

“In ’08 we got lucky,” Tate said. “And in 2010 we didn’t.”
 
Charles Franklin, a political science professor at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, said Obama likely won’t win Wisconsin by the margin he did in 2008.
 
“It would be astonishing if he did,” Franklin said. “The question is: How far does [the margin] go down?”
 
The bigger challenge for the campaign might be ensuring that Obama can put the state in his ‘win’ column earlier rather than later, which would allow him to spend more time and money in other states.
 
“He needs Wisconsin to not be his crucial battleground state in ’12,” Franklin said.
 
To that end, Franklin said, he expects to see Obama in Wisconsin early and often as he tries to shore up his support.
 
Obama will be challenged by some key Republicans in the state.

Budget hawk and rising GOP star Rep. Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanMcCarthy faces pushback from anxious Republicans over interview comments Pelosi and Trump go a full year without speaking Jordan vows to back McCarthy as leader even if House loses more GOP seats MORE (R-Wis.) enjoyed an enormous platform Tuesday night when he delivered the Republican State of the Union response.
 
And Reince Priebus, the new chairman of the Republican National Committee, comes to the national stage after chairing the state party through last year’s victories.
 
Obama landed in Green Bay on Wednesday morning, a tough place for a Chicago Bears fan.
 
In addition to the chilly welcome the president is likely to get from the state’s Republicans, at least one member of the Packers squad has already laid a layer of frost for the president.
 
After Obama said he would go to the Super Bowl to see his Bears — and predicted a 20-17 win — the Packers ended the Bears run.
 
Packers cornerback Charles Woodson had some choice words for a commander-in-chief who won’t make the trip to Dallas to see Green Bay in the Super Bowl.
 
“The president don’t want to come watch us win the Super Bowl?” Woodson said. “Guess what? We’ll go see him.”
 
It’s unclear whether Obama’s football loyalties will hurt him with Wisconsin’s voters in two years.

Youngman is the White House correspondent for The Hill. Find his column, Obama’s Bid for Reelection, on thehill.com.

This story was first posted at 6:04 a.m.