Presidential candidates crisscross Wisconsinby Tom Scheck, Minnesota Public Radio
Eau Claire, Wis. — Democrats Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are crisscrossing Wisconsin this weekend with the hopes of convincing voters to choose them in Tuesday's primary.
Clinton is spending Saturday and Sunday campaigning in eastern Wisconsin. Obama campaigned in Wasau, Eau Claire and Milwaukee on Saturday.
About 3,000 people attended an Obama rally at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. Obama focused a large part of his speech on changing the tone in Washington, improving the economy, and making health care more affordable. He also took a not so subtle shot at Clinton and the likely GOP nominee John McCain who have suggested that Obama doesn't have the experience to be president.
"I have to say that this argument isn't working, because I think the last thing we need is to have the same old cast of characters doing the same old things, playing the same old games over and over again. We need to try something new," Obama told the crowd.
Obama and Clinton are engaged in a fierce competition to win the Democratic presidential nomination. They're hoping that a Wisconsin victory will give them momentum heading into the important March 4 primaries in Ohio and Texas.
Clinton has also increased her criticism of Obama in recent days. She is questioning his experience at campaign stops and in ads. One ad running in Wisconsin also criticizes Obama for declining debate requests in the state.
"Barack Obama still won't agree to debate in Wisconsin," the announcer in the ad says. "Maybe he doesn't want to explain why his health care plan leaves out 15 million people and Hillary's covers everyone. Wisconsin deserves better," the ad says.
Officials with Obama's campaign said it was unfair of Clinton to criticize Obama since she has done little campaigning in Wisconsin. Obama has also ratcheted up his criticism of Clinton in recent days. He said at the rally that it was unfair of Clinton to suggest that she's the only candidate that has solutions.
"The question is not just who's got the policies, because we all have the policies," Obama said. "Senator Clinton has some very good policy proposals. The question is who can get them done? Who can bring people together? Who can overcome the special interests and the lobbyists and actually deliver on these promises?"
Obama's speech in Eau Claire focused much more on the economy than his Minneapolis rally earlier this month. He told the audience in Eau Claire that he would eliminate tax breaks for companies that shift jobs to other countries, would increase taxes on top earners and would provide tax breaks to individuals making $75,000 a year or less.
"I believe in the free market. I believe in entrepreneurship. I believe in capitalism," Obama explained. "But when CEOs are making more in ten minutes than ordinary workers are making in an entire year and the CEOs are getting the tax breaks, something is wrong. Something has to change. We need to restore some balance in the economy."
Obama didn't reference the likely GOP nominee, John McCain, during his speech. McCain made several campaign stops in Wisconsin on Friday. During a town hall forum in La Crosse, he told the audience of about 500 people that there are dramatic differences between himself and the Democratic candidates on government spending and other issues.
"That's going to be the subject of the debate that I'm going to have with Senator Obama or Senator Clinton is whether we want bigger government or smaller government. Whether we want to raise you're taxes or lower your taxes. I want to lower your taxes. Whether we're going to have the government run the health care system in this country as the Democrats want to do, or we're going to have the families make their choices about health care in this country. And we're going to talk about whether we're going to surrender to Al Qaeda in Iraq," McCain told the crowd.
Republican Mike Huckabee is not giving up his campaign, even though he can't win enough delegates to get the nomination. He campaigned in the state on Friday, and he is expected to pick up his campaign activities on Sunday and Monday.