Former President Bill Clinton stumped deep in the heart of Republican territory in Wisconsin Thursday to talk dollars, cents, and arithmetic before a crowd of roughly 600 people in Waukesha.
Clinton — dubbed the "Secretary of Explaining Things" minutes before by Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett — praised President Barack Obama’s plan to rebuild the economy, saying that it was based upon arithmetic.
He couldn’t say the same for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s plan to restore the nation’s economy, which Clinton said would undermine the identity of the country. Clinton said there’s a reason Romney has been mum on explaining how his tax cuts add up.
“There is no possible way to do this without cutting education, without cutting investment in infrastructure, without cutting investment in our economic future, without doing terrible damage to Medicaid, without undermining who we are, and doing something that is dumb economically," Clinton said.
On the other hand, Clinton praised Obama’s plan to tackle the debt and sagging economy. Clinton said Obama’s plan invests in renewable energy, the country's technological infrastructure, education, and healthcare.
“His plan educates and empowers the American people, and he has a plan to tackle the debt,” Clinton said.
Close contest in Wisconsin
Clinton was rallying Democrat support on Republican turf Thursday because it appears the race in Wisconsin could be down to a dead heat. Though staunchly Republican, Waukesha County turns out the third highest total of Democratic voters in the state, according to JSOnline’s Don Walker.
And although Wednesday's Marquette University Poll shows Obama with an 8-point edge in Wisconsin, the lineup of campaign stops in Wisconsin would suggest both candidates see a much tighter race in the state.
In the final days before the election, Obama, Clinton, Romney, and GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan will all have spent precious time remaining on the campaign trail in the Badger State. Romney will be in West Allis on Friday, and Obama will make a stop in Milwaukee Saturday and Madison on Monday.
Clinton assured those in attendance Thursday that Obama has taken the country on the right path. He said even Romney conceded that Obama inherited a dire situation, but Obama has done his best to lead the nation toward recovery.
“We remember what it was like in November 2008. This country was losing 750,000 jobs a month. Our auto industry was on the brink of disappearing. The housing market was falling apart,” Clinton said. “We are selling American cars again. The housing industry is no longer in the free fall it was. It’s because President Obama had the courage to do the right thing.”
He said Romney would only take the country backward to the same place it was when the economy was in a downward spiral. Clinton said no economists would say that a complete recovery could be accomplished in four years, and that the country needs to stay on the path Obama has taken.
“I’m more excited about Obama than I was in 2008,” Clinton said. “I’m sure it’s just a coincidence. A business forecasting group, Moody’s Analytics, says that the American economy in the next four years will produce 12 million jobs if we don’t mess up what president Obama is already done.”
Supporters like what they hear
Lew Arnold, of Waukesha, was at the rally supporting the president. The last-minute rally may just help “garner the votes” for Obama, he said.
“Every vote counts, and that is what we are doing today,” Arnold said. “I have no doubt in my mind that Republicans are going to carry this county, but every vote counts.”
Waukesha County has a predominately Republican voter base, but because of the county’s large population, it still has a strong Democratic draw.
Nancy Balzer, of the Town of Waukesha, thought Clinton’s speech will help push the Democratic vote in Waukesha County because “he is such a clear explainer,” Balzer said.
“He came out and said, ‘I am going to explain it all.’ He really did,” Balzer said. “He highlighted the difference between President Obama’s plans and Governor Romney’s. In particular, Governor Romney has not been very forthcoming with his actual plans, laying out what he is going to do.
“Instead, he is making generalizations, whereas President Obama has specific plans that are out there. We can see how far we have come in the four years that he has been president.”
Milwaukee residents Josh Pieper and Rachel Peeters made the trip to see Clinton. Pieper felt the most important coming out of Clinton’s speech was “the way he breaks down the numbers, financially.”
Peeters was impressed by information about students and the importance of scholarships and grants. Clinton’s speech could help strengthen the Democratic vote in Waukesha County, she said.
“I think it will definitely get the voters out with his presence here,” Peeters said.