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Obama carried Wisconsin by 14 percentage points in 2008 but has watched his popularity fall amid tough economic conditions. Republicans, led by Gov. Scott Walker, captured nearly every statewide office two years ago and GOP leaders expect to target Obama throughout the Midwest this year.

Walker infuriated Democrats with efforts to curtail collective bargaining rights and faces a recall election later in the spring or summer that could serve as a bellwether for Obama in the state. Walker has said a win would deliver a “devastating blow” to Obama’s re-election campaign.

Yet he was all smiles he greeted the president at the airport, a Milwaukee Brewers jersey in hand as a gift.

The president hit the road with good political news trailing him. Congress had reached a tentative agreement to extend a payroll tax cut that would mean an extra $40 per paycheck for a typical family, along with an extension of unemployment benefits. The payroll tax break was as the heart of Obama’s jobs plan.

He suggested that a range of changes in the tax code could keep the momentum going. Obama has sought a reduction in tax rates for manufacturers and proposed tax credits that would cover moving expenses for companies that close production overseas and bring jobs back to the U.S.

He noted that Master Lock has returned about 100 jobs to the United States from China since mid-2010 in response to higher labor and logistical costs in Asia. “Manufacturing is coming back,” Obama said. “The economy is getting stronger.”

Obama plans to take the manufacturing message to Washington state on Friday, touring a Boeing facility at the end of a brisk West Coast trip.


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