-- When President Obama touched down La Crosse, Wisconsin today to give a speech on the economy, he was forced to share the spotlight with the state's governor and soon-to-be presidential candidate Scott Walker. Walker was there to greet the president's plane when it rolled up in all its grandeur at La Crosse Regional Airport.
And though Walker and Obama had what seemed to be a cordial encounter -- sharing smiles and a handshake during their brief exchange -- the two politicians were locked in a political turf battle throughout the day.
While President Obama came to Wisconsin to tout the success of his policies and outline a new plan to give a pay increase to some 5 million Americans, Walker put on a show of his own.
Using the presidential spotlight to his own advantage, the Wisconsin governor today officially filed with the FEC as a Republican candidate ahead of an announcement on July 13 in Waukesha.
“I’m going to point out that the president and others in Washington could pick up a lesson or two by the good work we’ve done to get our budget balanced, to get our finances in order, our economy is much better,” Walker said in a radio interview. “There’s a lot the president can learn from the state of Wisconsin.”
It's no mistake that Obama chose the Badger State to make his case for working class Americans. The president has made clear he's no fan of Walker's economic policies. When earlier this year Wisconsin became the 25th right-to-work state (making union payments voluntary), Obama criticized the state law, which he called "anti-worker" and said would "weaken, rather than strengthen workers in the new economy."
And though Obama never directly named Walker in his speech today, he was pointed in critiquing Walker's policies.
“We've seen what happens when top-down economics meets the real world," Obama said. "We've got proof right here in Wisconsin, you had a statewide fair pay law that was repealed. Your right to organize and bargain collectively was attacked, your student education funding was cut, your minimum wage has been stuck in place.”
And for his part, Walker took the president on directly in criticizing his overtime pay agenda, calling it “empty political rhetoric," and touting his own economic record.
"The president's effort is a political pitch but the reality is this will lead to lower base pay and benefits and will cut workers' hours and flexibility in the workplace,” Walker said in a statement critiquing the president's overtime pay proposal, which boosts the threshold for paying overtime to salaried employees.
Walker also published a new Op-Ed today titled “Welcome to Wisconsin, Mr. President,” in which he contrasts his economic agenda to that of president's, making the case that the “bright spots in the Obama economy are few and far between” and touts Wisconsin’s economic recovery under his watch “in spite of – not because of – the president’s big-government policies.”
His team is also taking to social media to push points of contrast between Wisconsin's economy and national trends. One tweet uses a chart to show that Wisconsin's unemployment is below the national average -- at 4.6 percent compared to 5.3 percent nationally.