MADISON (WORT) — Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton used Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker as a political punching bag during her first campaign stop in Wisconsin. Walker was a convenient foil for Clinton to help demonstrate her focus on addressing income inequality.
“Gov. Walker thinks because he busts unions, starves universities, guts public education, demeans women, scapegoats teachers, nurses, and firefighters,” said Clinton. “He’s some sort of tough guy on a motorcycle.”
The event, billed as “Women for Hillary’ Grassroots Organizing Meeting,” was held on the UW-Milwaukee campus. UW students made up the majority of the 2,000 crowd but no particular gender or race dominated the energetic crowd.
The former U.S. senator and secretary of state may be the most well credentialed presidential candidate from either party on global affairs but Clinton primarily focused on economic issues.
“Raising incomes and supporting families is the defining economic challenge of our time,” said Clinton. “I will make that the mission of my presidency.”
Clinton repeatedly came back to empowering women as a solution to a host of injustices in American society.
Hillary backers at the rally see Clinton as the pragmatic Democratic nominee to compete in general election. Supporters say the battle-tested political veteran can actually deliver on the tough talk heard on the campaign trail.
“There is no one more qualified [for president] running right now,” said longtime Clinton supporter Cindy Vanvreede.
“She stands for what’s right,” said UW-Milwaukee student Steve Nouse, adding: “It’s time for a woman president too.”
However, student Leah Mau says she’s still undecided about who to vote in 2016.
“I did not think I [would] tear up at the rally and I did a little bit,” said Mau. “I think that’s powerful and says something about [Clinton.]”
Devin Gatton helped organize the most visible protest against Clinton. Via a Facebook event page, Gatton said an informal and bipartisan group gathered to greet Clinton supporters as they waited in line to be screened by security. They waved pre-printed signs that used the Clinton campaign’s signature “H logo” to spell out hypocrisy.
“We’re letting [Clinton] know that not everybody seems to adore her,” said Gatton. “We just want to let her know that she’s not just going to be able to walk into the presidency.”
Some self-identified supporters of Clinton’s Democratic rival Bernie Sanders also attended the rally but not to protest. UW-Milwaukee students Brittany and Rachel–neither of whom wanted to give their last name–questioned whether Clinton’s rhetoric would stand up to her reputation as being the moderate in the Democratic primary.
“Bernie just feels more solid on his views,” said Brittany. “Some of the things that Hillary said, it seemed like she said them because a certain demographic was here.”
“I’m also leaning more towards Bernie,” said Rachel. “But I’d take Hillary over any Republican to be honest.”
Clinton’s emphasis on addressing income equality did touch on some of the broader points of Bernie Sanders’ populist message. But Clinton refrained from maligning billionaires and using politically charged descriptors like ‘Wall Street’ and ‘The Big Banks,’ which are prevalent in Sanders’ stump speech.
Clinton acknowledged her careful choice of words as a defining feature of her candidacy. One that distinguishes her from the other presidential hopefuls on both sides of the aisle.
“There’s a lot of talk about what’s wrong with America [and] who’s to blame for it,’ said Clinton. “I want to focus on what’s right and make more of that happen. There’s is nothing we can’t do if we put our minds to it!”
It may only be because the song was played at least four times during the rally, but the words of pop star Taylor Swift in her mega-hit “Shake it Off” seem to best capture the present mood of the Clinton campaign.
“Cause the players gonna play, play, play, play, play
And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate
I’m just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake
I shake it off, I shake it off”
In the state’s April 5th primary, Clinton will find out whether Wisconsin voters are haters or not.
Edited by Joe Tarr.