President Barack Obama visited the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus on Tuesday afternoon to speak at the first in a series of campaign rallies in support of Democratic congressional and gubernatorial candidates running in this fall's midterm elections. Speaking before an enthusiastic crowd of supporters, many students and clad in Badger cardinal, the president delivered a vigorous address promoting his administration's actions over the last 18 months in the face of ongoing economic distress across the United States.
Announced less than three weeks ago, the rally was held in the UW Library Mall, at the east end of campus adjacent to State Street. The event was opened with a series of musical performances by local faves Mama Digdown's Brass Band and Ben Harper, as well as The National, a late addition that was already scheduled to be playing Madison later in the evening as part of its fall tour. Interspersed with the performances were introductory speeches by several UW College Democrats, as well as campaign address by Wisconsin gubernatorial candidate Tom Barrett and incumbent U.S. Senator Russ Feingold. Both statewide Democratic candidates are facing stiff races from their Republican challengers.
Though details for attending the rally were released only days ago, turnout was substantial. Lines for entrance into the rally, interspersed with a handful of protesters, formed early in the day, eventually stretching longer than a mile west across the campus. The UW Police Department estimates that some 26,500 persons attended the event, of which 17,200 were in the gated area around the mall. These numbers rival, and may exceed those tallied in February 2008 for the Obama campaign rally at the Kohl Center.
Kristian Knutsen contributed to this story.