By Kirsten Adshead | Wisconsin Reporter
Manufacturing roots. Middle class. Politically independent.
President Barack Obama won Brown County with 53 percent of the vote in 2008. But just two years later, 56 percent of Brown County voters chose Republican Scott Walker to be their governor.
Which way will that area go? Check the wind, says John Rink, political science professor at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville.
“It’s a growing population area in Wisconsin with high turnout rates up there. It’s considered a strategically important place to tip the balance, in a pretty volatile battleground state.”
It’s little wonder, then, that Paul Ryan, the Janesville congressman who would be vice president if Mitt Romney wins in November, chose this place for his latest trip back to his home state.
And it’s of no surprise Ryan’s speech Wednesday focused on the issues middle-income, independent voters believe are most important in this election — economy, jobs, long-term financial security.
“When (Romney) was governor of Massachusetts, unemployment went down, family household income went up,” Ryan said. “He presided over an increase in the credit rating of his state.”
By contrast, he said, “Under President Obama, we’ve had unemployment above 8 percent for 43 months. Family household income on average has gone down $4,000, and we’ve had the first downgrade of United States credit in our history, and another one is threatening to come. That’s not leadership.”
Ryan remained on message in his latest Wisconsin campaign stop, driving home the main political points of the Republican National Convention last month in Tampa, Fla.
Vice President Joe Biden also focused on the economy – and leadership — when he campaigned just down the road in nearby Green Bay on Sept. 3.
“There’s not a single doubt in my mind that we’re on our way to rebuilding this country stronger than it was before this recession,” Biden said. “I am absolutely certain we’re on our way to rebuilding the middle class more vibrant than it was before this recession. … So ladies and gentlemen join us, help us finish what we started.”
Biden returns to Wisconsin on Thursday, to stump in Eau Claire, in northwest Wisconsin.
Ryan opened his speech Wednesday by asking for a moment of silence in honor of the four Americans killed this week in attacks in Libya.
He lobbed criticism at Obama for the president’s approach to foreign policy and for proposing cuts to the military budget.
“Peace through strength works,” Ryan said, later adding, “I believe the president’s devastating defense cuts breed weakness.”
The congressman spent most of his time responding to questions from the audience, who wanted to know things such as how a Romney-Ryan administration would handle the Federal Reserve to what they would do about a doctor being held in Pakistan.
Ryan’s responses emphasized general themes of fiscal management and goals for the coming years over policy specifics.
But it was enough to impress Marian Schlise of Sturgeon Bay.
“His ability to come forth with all the questions that were asked and his honesty, forthrightness,” she said. “He’s representing the people and he wants to know where people are coming from, what questions they have, what concerns they have. I loved it.”
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