The day after a less than stellar performance in the first Presidential Debate, President Obama came to Madison, Wisconsin in order to rally up one of his strongest bases of support in a pivotal swing state.
While the Republicans have not carried Wisconsin since Reagan won every state but Minnesota and Washington D.C. in 1984, Democrat John Kerry won the state by 0.4% in 2004. The Badger State is always hotly contested.
According to the most recent polls, Obama holds a 7.6% lead over Romney. However, the Rasmussen poll has only a 3-point gap between the two candidates. And Mitt Romney’s VP choice of Paul Ryan as VP, who has served the first district of Wisconsin since 1999 and is from Janesville, makes Wisconsin even more of a swing state.
By 7:00 a.m. on this crisp fall day, a sizable crowd had begun to form, and by 11:00 a.m. the line was snaking across Observatory Drive. A palpable excitement permeated throughout Madison, an excitement that Halloween on State Street or an important football game seeks to create. After waiting on a seemingly endless line, the gates opened and 30,000 people flooded onto Bascom Hill.
At around 2:30 p.m., Madison’s Mayor Paul Soglin began by introducing some of the people who were about to speak, and spoke to the crowd about the importance of voting. Next up came State Representative Mark Pocan. Pocan is running for the second district seat, which was formerly held by senatorial candidate Tammy Baldwin. Pocan’s speech was wildly enthusiastic, and was greeted to resounding cheers after all of his emphatic points. One of his major points was the importance of early voting and the ability to early vote, a major theme throughout the afternoon.
Next up was Senator Herb Kohl who has announced that he is retiring after the end of this term. Kohl, a former University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate, spoke at length about the importance of education, as well as the importance of the state as a great place of manufacturing and job creation within the United States. Kohl closed his speech by saying, “I was the senator for the people of Wisconsin and the people of Wisconsin only. I can promise that Tammy Baldwin will be the senator for you and you only as well.”
Representative Tammy Baldwin came next to some of the loudest cheers of the afternoon. Baldwin is looking to keep a Democrat in the seat being vacated by 24-year veteran Kohl. However, she finds herself embroiled in one of the most hotly contested races in the country against Republican Tommy Thompson. After being down for much of the race, Baldwin currently finds herself with a narrow five-point lead. During Baldwin’s speech, she focused on inconsistencies in Romney’s tax plan and what he said during the debate, as well as many other issues related to the economy. When talking about the differences between Romney and Obama, she said, “Mitt Romney wants to ‘etch-a-sketch’ his past. President Obama wants to move this country forward.”
Obama for America Field Organizer Brady Williams closed out the first segment of the event dubbed a “Grassroots Event.” Williams, a former Badger, spoke about the importance of education, and that the only reason he was able to attend the University of Wisconsin-Madison was because of the help he got from the United States Government.
After a half-hour break and a quick introductory speech by Katie Ilef, a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, President Obama came out to the stage. His presence and tone sounded far more relaxed and comfortable in front of a very hospitable audience filled with eager students and excited onlookers alike. Early on, President Obama hopped onto the offensive against Romney, humorously stating, “When I got onto the stage, I met this very spirited fellow who claimed to be Mitt Romney, but it couldn't have been Mitt Romney, because the real Mitt Romney has been running around the country for the last year promising $5 trillion in tax cuts that favor the wealthy. The fellow on stage last night said he didn't know anything about that."
Obama attacked Romney’s consistency again later in the speech, stating, “the guy playing Mitt Romney said he loves education, but his running mate made a budget that significantly cut education funding.” He later went on to say that “no one should set aside an acceptance letter from the University of Wisconsin because of money issues.” Obama also made light of Romney’s plan to cut public television funding by saying, “He’s not going to regulate Wall Street, but he’s cracking down on Sesame Street.” Throughout the course of the afternoon, every time Mitt Romney’s name was mentioned, the crowd would boo. This prompted Obama to say, “Don’t boo, vote.” To close his speech, Obama said, “47% of people didn’t vote for me, they voted for John McCain, but I told them, ‘you may not have voted for me, but I will still fight for you.” Throughout the course of the rally, Obama masterfully weaved in subtle and not so subtle quips at Romney, while rallying one of his strongest bases of support. As thousands of people filed off of Bascom Hill, volunteers struggled to find enough pens and voter registration sheets to placate the needs.