By Ryan Ekvall | Wisconsin Reporter
MADISON — President Obama brought his rock-star campaign tour back to Wisconsin on Election Eve — a final push to rally his base in this city of Obamaly love.
The Boss, Bruce Springsteen, joined the president for an outdoor concert downtown just two days after pop-singer Katy Perry campaigned with Obama in Milwaukee. While the location and the musical celebrity may have changed, the speech the incumbent delivered in the battleground Badger State on Monday was a nearly verbatim copy of the one he gave in Milwaukee on Saturday.
“We’ve made progress these last four years,” Obama said. “But the reason we’re all gathered here — in addition to listening to Bruce — is because we know we’ve got more work to do. As long as there’s a single American who wants a job that can’t find one, our work is not yet done … Our fight goes on.”
With Lake Monona at his back and facing the state Capitol, Obama on Monday stood near the site of a union-led protest some 20 months ago, a movement that filled the streets around the statehouse with tens of thousands of irate demonstrators livid about a bill led by Republican Gov. Scott Walker that would strip collective bargaining for most public employees.
The labor-backed Democrat — acknowledging his final day of campaigning — either sang his swan song or kicked off his reunion tour in Wisconsin with 15,000 or so in attendance, many wearing green AFSCME shirts or pins with the blue fist logo that has come to symbolize a mixture of a union-driven fight and the demonstrators rage against Republicans.
“One year and a half ago … you stood up for the rights of Wisconsin workers. … Yes you did,” state Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, told the crowd as one of the rally’s first speakers.
When tens of thousands of Wisconsinites took to the streets in protest in the winter of 2011, the president — who on Monday called himself the champion of union laborers, teachers, auto workers and restaurant service workers — was nowhere to be found in Wisconsin.
When Democrats were asking where Obama was leading up to this past June’s gubernatorial recall election, the union “champion” sent a tweet in solidarity with Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, Walker’s Democratic challenger. Barrett lost to Walker by 7 percentage points.
Obama’s absence in Wisconsin until late in the presidential election may have showed in downtown Madison on Monday.
WE SEE YOU: President Obama waves to the press as he greets supporters Monday at a campaign event in Madison.
The Romney campaign was quick to point out that in 2004, Springsteen and then-presidential candidate U.S. Sen. John Kerry, D-Massachusetts, drew an estimated 80,000 people to the state Capitol.
Perhaps it was just campaign fatigue on the part of supporters. With polls in Wisconsin tightening, the president has campaigned in Wisconsin three times in the past five days, twice in Madison in the past month. He carried the state by 14 points in 2008.
Springsteen played what he called a campaign song, “Forward and Away We Go,” which he debuted on the trail last month.
“Actually, the first debate really freaked me out, but then it got a little better,” Springsteen said mid-verse. “Romney got schooled twice by Obama.” The crowd chanted “forward!” “And smiling Joe Biden brought the drama. (Forward!) Fox News said he was smoking marijuana. (forward!) Forward and away we go.”
Obama thanked Springsteen and acknowledged his last day of campaigning.
“He’s an American treasure. … And I get to fly around with him on the last day I will ever campaign, so that’s not a bad way to end things.”
Obama and Springsteen were scheduled to finish the day in Iowa and Ohio, where they were expected to meet up with rapper Jay-Z. Romney spent Election Eve campaigning in Florida, Virginia, Ohio and New Hampshire.
Try and sing-along yourself.
Contact Ryan Ekvall at [email protected]