MADISON, Wis. (AP) — President Barack Obama is making a rare appearance on the campaign trail just one week before Election Day in an effort to help a Democratic challenger oust Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker from office.
Walker is a top target of Democrats in the midterm elections after he angered organized labor by enacting a measure in 2011 that reduced the power of public sector unions in the state. Obama was scheduled to campaign Tuesday evening with Democrat Mary Burke, a former Trek Bicycles executive and state commerce secretary, who is running close against Walker, a potential 2016 presidential candidate.
Polls show the race is deadlocked with very few voters undecided, which makes it even more important for Walker and Burke to get their backers to the polls. Wisconsin hasn't voted for a Republican for president since Ronald Reagan in 1984, but Walker won in both 2010 and in a recall election in 2012. Just five months after that June 2012 recall win for Walker, Wisconsin handed Obama a 7-point re-election victory.
Obama will appear at a high school in Milwaukee, the state's largest city and a Democratic stronghold. Burke must win big there and in similarly liberal Madison to counter Walker's support among Republicans in the conservative Milwaukee suburbs and in rural areas.
Walker, during a campaign stop near Madison on Monday morning, said Obama's visit and one by former President Bill Clinton last week, also in Milwaukee, shows that Burke is all about turning more Democrats out to vote, not attracting any of the few undecided voters that remain. First lady Michelle Obama also campaigned for Burke recently in both Madison and Milwaukee.
"They're trying to drive up turnout figuring they're not having much impact of convincing any more persuadable independent voters and it's more about turnout," Walker said. Walker, who launched a bus tour Saturday for the final 10 days of the race, said he was trying to compete for undecided voters all across the state.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, the head of the Republican Governors Association and a potential GOP rival to Walker for president, was scheduled to be in Wisconsin with Walker on Friday.
There aren't many undecided voters to find. The most recent Marquette University Law School poll, released on Oct. 15, had Walker and Burke knotted up with 47 percent each and just 3 percent of voters undecided.
While Obama's numbers have dipped much lower in other states, he still remains relatively popular in Wisconsin — particularly in Milwaukee. He won that city with 79 percent of the vote in 2012. The Marquette poll two weeks ago showed Obama with a 51 percent favorability rating statewide.
But Walker said Obama and Clinton's visits, taken together with statements by national union leaders saying defeating him was a top priority, shows that Burke is the candidate of "Washington-based special interests."
"They don't like the fact that we took the power out of their hands, the Washington-based special interests, in the last few years, and put it firmly in the hands of Wisconsin taxpayers," Walker said.
His signature policy achievement was passing a law in 2011 that effectively ended collective bargaining for most public workers, and also did away with automatic union dues deductions. Anger over that law motivated the recall and Walker's victory further raised his national profile for a potential presidential run.
Burke, reacting to Walker's comments later Monday, rejected his characterization and said that Walker's campaign has benefited from millions in donations from "deep pocketed" special interests, many of them from outside the state.
Separate filings show that Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson gave the Wisconsin Republican Party $650,000 on Thursday and the same day the party gave Walker more than $450,000.
Burke has donated $5 million to her own campaign, a third of the $15 million she's raised in the effort to knock off Walker.
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