After State of the Union, Obama Takes a 'Victory Lap' in Wisconsin

Jackie Calmes follows Obama to Wisconsin on his "victory lap" tour of factory floors, finds enthusiasm and applause for the president.
President Obama just keeps moving from strength to strength - in Times-land, anyway. After a flat and typical State of the Union speech that the Times played up as exciting and new, Washington reporter Jackie Calmes on Thursday followed Obama on a Wisconsin "victory lap" factory tour: "Obama, in Wisconsin, Picks Up Address's Refrain."

President Obama loves sports metaphors, and they were flying on Wednesday when he came to Green Bay Packers country to tour three factories and expand on the "winning the future" theme of his State of the Union address the night before.

In that spirit, Mr. Obama seemed to be taking something of a victory lap as he strode each plant floor in turn, joking with employees and extolling their companies' successes - after two years spent reassuring fearful Americans that recession and high unemployment did not portend a nation in decline.

If Tuesday's speech was meant to sound a new, more optimistic note, Mr. Obama came to Wisconsin, a swing state in presidential elections, not only to repeat his message but also to illustrate it. While unemployment remains above 9 percent nationwide, in this town it is under 8 percent - 4 points lower than a year ago - partly because of hiring at the three factories, all of which have taken advantage of federal loans and tax incentives to retool, innovate and expand.

"When America is facing tougher competition from countries around the world than ever before, we've got to up our game," Mr. Obama told several hundred enthusiastic employees at Orion Energy Systems, which makes solar power and other energy-efficient technology for commercial customers, at a site once occupied by a company that relocated overseas.

Calmes let Obama's banal metaphors pass as triumphant.

Mr. Obama, a fan of his hometown Chicago Bears, was even game about the fact that his remarks about playing to win had a special resonance in this town, 40 miles from Green Bay, just days after the Packers defeated the Bears to secure a spot in the Super Bowl.

He accepted three green-and-gold Packers jerseys, including one that said "Obama 1," and at Orion quoted the legendary Packers coach Vince Lombardi, for whom the Super Bowl trophy is named, saying, "There is only one place in my game, and that's first place."

"That's the kind of determination to win that America needs to show right now," Mr. Obama said to applause. "We need to win the future."