After State of the Union, Obama Heads to Battleground State of Wisconsin

President Barack Obama receives an autographed Green Bay Packers Charles Woodson from Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, center, and Green Bay Mayor Jim Schmitt, upon his arrival in Green Bay, Wis., Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2011, en route to nearby Manitowoc, Wis., where he will a tour renewable-energy factories and talk about jobs and the economy. Obama, a Chicago native, predicted the Chicago Bears would beat Green Bay in the NFC Championship game.
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
Barack Obama, Wisconsin, Packers
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

In his State of the Union address last night, President Obama laid out his vision for the future of America and sought to set himself apart from Republicans by calling for new investments in areas like clean energy.

As he heads into the 2012 election, perhaps no state better represents the challenge Mr. Obama will have in selling his agenda to the American public and overcoming a reinvigorated GOP opposition than Wisconsin, where Mr. Obama traveled today.

Mr. Obama today flew to Manitowoc, Wisconsin to visit a renewable energy technology manufacturer, an aluminum manufacturer and a wind turbine power manufacturer. The companies represent the type of forward-looking technologies the government should support in order to "win the future," as Mr. Obama argued in his State of the Union.

"It's here in Manitowoc that the race for the 21st Century will be won," Mr. Obama said today at the Orion Energy Systems manufacturing plant.

In fact, nearly 50 years ago, a piece of the Soviet satellite Sputnik crashed in Manitowoc, making the Wisconsin town the perfect place for Mr. Obama to reiterate his call for a new "Sputnik moment" in America.

Yet like many other midwestern cities, Manitowoc has seen its share of hardship in the past decade, Mr. Obama acknowledged. And while Mr. Obama won Wisconsin by a 14-point margin in the 2008 presidential elections, the state went decidedly red in the 2010 midterms. Republicans last fall won governor's office, a Senate seat, two House seats and both chambers of the state legislature.

Furthermore, Wisconsin is home to the people who embody Mr. Obama's opposition. Republican Rep. Paul Ryan, who delivered the Republican response to the president's address last night, represents Wisconsin's first district, while Reince Priebus, the new chair of the Republican National Committee, also hails from the Badger State.

"Barack Obama's [election] map does not add up without Wisconsin being in his column," Priebus said in a press conference this morning, CNN reports. "But the state will be red in 2012."

Wisconsin is even home to the Green Bay Packers, the football team that beat out Mr. Obama's hometown team, the Chicago Bears, for a place in the Super Bowl next month.

"I have not come to Packer Country because I lost a bet," Mr. Obama joked today. "Sunday was a tough day to be a Bears fan."

When Wisconsin's Republican Gov. Scott Walker greeted Mr. Obama at the Green Bay airport today, he handed Mr. Obama a Green Bay jersey. "They're rubbing it in," Mr. Obama joked to reporters as he posed with the jersey.

Mr. Obama is hoping his push to revitalize domestic manufacturing with investments in clean energy will sell well in key swing states like Michigan and Iowa. Vice President Joe Biden today is traveling to Indiana, another crucial battleground state, to tour a plant that builds lithium-ion battery systems.

As Mr. Obama continues to sell his agenda across the nation, those looking for a clue as to which states the president will focus on need look no further than his speech last night. The blog Smart Politics points out that each of the personal anecdotes Mr. Obama gave in his State of the Union address featured individuals living in battleground states won by the president in 2008: Michigan, Colorado, North Carolina, Oregon and Pennsylvania.

And given that the president may already be bearing a grudge against the Packers, it may come as no surprise that Mr. Obama could be rooting for the Pittsburgh Steelers, another battleground team, on Super Bowl Sunday

Stephanie Condon is a political reporter for You can read more of her posts here. You can also follow her on Twitter here.