President Obama Gets His Groove Back at UW-Madison

President Barack Obama spoke in front of a friendly crowd of 30,000 at the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus on Thursday, October 4.

Dressed casually in a button down shirt, no tie, and fleece-type jacket, Obama looked far more comfortable in the bluest city in a purple state than he did the night before in Denver.

“I’m told this is good practice for Halloween on State Street,” the President joked to the huge throng of people assembled behind various fences on Bascom Hill. (Madison is known for its raucous Halloween celebrations downtown.)

He named dropped the local politicians who preceded him on the stage: Senator Herb Kohl, U.S. Representative Tammy Baldwin (who is in a tight race for Kohl’s seat), state rep Mark Pocan, and Mayor Paul Soglin. Baldwin and Pocan both gave energetic speeches and got the biggest cheers from the crowd.

Pocan (who’s running for Baldwin’s Congressional seat) was especially funny. He talked about the GOP’s plan to fix Medicare and Social Security. “Are you a dog owner?” he asked. The Republican fix for Medicare and Social Security is the same as at the vet—it’s painful and things don't work like before, Pocan said.

Obama began his speech talking about last night’s Presidential debate. “I met this spirited guy called Mitt Romney,” Obama said, and went on to contrast “the Romney we know” versus “the guy we met last night.”

The same could be said of Obama: The guy who gave a lackluster debate performance versus the guy who looked relaxed and sounded eloquent and confident on Bascom Hill.

“Romney will get rid of Wall Street regulations but crack down on Sesame Street,” Obama said, adding, “It’s a good thing someone is going after Big Bird.”

The President gave a speech similar to the one he delivered in Milwaukee a few weeks ago. He talked about bringing back the auto industry and manufacturing. He spoke about green energy and railed against the need for oil companies to get more tax breaks.

“Education is the reason I’m on stage,” he said, and called for decreasing student loan debt, which got a big cheer from the students in the crowd. “The guy playing Mitt Romney last night says he loves teachers,” Obama said, and then noted that Romney and Paul Ryan’s budget would gut education.

His ran down the laundry list of his accomplishments: he ended war in Iraq, Al Qaeda is on the road to defeat, and Osama Bin Laden is dead.

Obama called for increasing taxes on wealthy and that got a cheer, though not as big as the one for reproductive rights.

The President ended his speech talking about change. “Change doesn’t happen in one year or one term . . . or with one political party,” he said. “Change happens when people get together” and make it happen.

“If you work with me, we will win Wisconsin again,” he said before exiting the stage to shake hands.

The Marquette University poll released this week shows Obama leading Romney in the state, 53 percent to 42 percent. Obama won Wisconsin by 14 percentage points in 2008. But John Kerry and Al Gore won the state by less than 1 percent.

The President did not mention Governor Scott Walker or the bruising labor battles that have polarized this state. That’s not surprising, given how silent the White House was during the protests and recalls.

Plus, some of the people who voted for Scott Walker will vote for Barack Obama. The same Marquette University poll shows Walker’s approval rating among likely voters at 52 percent.

If you liked this story by Elizabeth DiNovella, the Culture Editor of The Progressive magazine, check out her story "Dark Money’s Dark Role in Wisconsin Races."

Follow Elizabeth DiNovella @lizdinovella on Twitter