Wisconsin Enjoys The National Spotlight

Wisconsin has long been a battleground state in presidential elections, but doesn't always get a lot of attention in non-election years. This week, however, the Badger State seemed to be the center of the universe with a presidential visit, a Wisconsin congressman giving the official GOP response to the State of the Union address and a Kenosha Republican now heading the Republican National Committee. And did we mention the Green Bay Packers? NPR's Don Gonyea reports.

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Wisconsin has long been a battleground state in presidential elections, but it doesn't always get a lot of national attention in non-election years. All of the sudden this week, Wisconsin seemed to be the center of the political universe.

NPR national political correspondent Don Gonyea has this postcard.

DON GONYEA: It's not particularly easy to get to Manitowoc, Wisconsin, especially in January when you never know what the weather will be like. But there was President Obama on the morning after his State of the Union address.

(Soundbite of cheering and applause)

President BARACK OBAMA: Hello, everybody.

(Soundbite of cheering)

President OBAMA: Hello, Wisconsin.

(Soundbite of cheering and applause)

President OBAMA: Thank you. Thank you.

GONYEA: It was a big deal for this small city on Lake Michigan, even the state's newly-elected Republican governor, Scott Walker, showed up.

Governor SCOTT WALKER (Republican, Wisconsin): No matter what the reason for coming, I'll take the fact having the president of the United States here, regardless of party, is a strong positive sign for the State of Wisconsin. And for us, it's another way we can highlight some of our great businesses.

GONYEA: And the president wasn't the only one putting the spotlight on Wisconsin this week.

Representative PAUL RYAN (R-WI, Chairman, Budget Committee): Good evening. Im Congressman Paul Ryan from Janesville, Wisconsin, and chairman here at the House Budget Committee.

GONYEA: Ryan delivered the official GOP response to the State of the Union address Tuesday.

And there's another Wisconsinite in the news these days.

Mr. REINCE PRIEBUS (Chairman, Republican National Committee): Hi. Well, first of all, my name is Reince Priebus.

GONYEA: Priebus is the new chairman of the Republican National Committee, who spent the week retooling the party apparatus to take on President Obama in 2012. All of this means Wisconsin may be getting more close-ups in the national media.

At a downtown Manitowoc lunch counter, 41-year-old John Tobin says if the rest of the country learns more about the state in the process, that's just fine by him.

Mr. JOHN TOBIN: It's the heart of the country. I moved into to Wisconsin in '95, Manitowoc in '98. So Im married with five kids. It's a good place to live. It really is.

GONYEA: And we haven't even brought up football yet. The Green Bay Packers, Super Bowl bound after beating Mr. Obama's team, the Chicago Bears.

President OBAMA: Let me start by clearing something up. I am not here because I lost a bet.

(Soundbite of laughter and applause)

President OBAMA: I just wanted to be clear about that. I have already gotten three Green Bay jerseys.

(Soundbite of cheering and applause)

GONYEA: The president showing he's been taking notes on Wisconsin.

Don Gonyea, NPR News.

(Soundbite of song, "On Wisconsin")

SIMON: This is NPR News.

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