MADISON, Wis. (AP) — From an appearance by President Barack Obama on Monday morning to one by Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan at night, Wisconsin found itself squarely in the campaign crosshairs on the eve of Election Day.
An estimated 18,000 people crowded near the state Capitol despite temperatures in the 20s for their last chance to see Obama before Tuesday's election. Obama's morning rally, with rocker Bruce Springsteen in tow, was his third Wisconsin appearance in five days and spoke to the importance of the state and its 10 electoral votes as Obama and Romney made a final push.
The candidates for Wisconsin's open U.S. Senate seat were also making a last surge across the state, including swing areas like Green Bay and Wausau. Democrat Tammy Baldwin, as she had Thursday in Green Bay and Saturday in Milwaukee, spoke before Obama at the rally. Thompson said on a Milwaukee conservative talk radio show that he was confident heading into Election Day.
Many who waited hours in temperatures in the upper 20s seemed just as excited to see Springsteen as Obama on Monday. Springsteen previously campaigned in Madison in 2004 for John Kerry and attracted 80,000.
Springsteen, in a four-song set, joked about taking the stage at 10:30 a.m.
"It's certainly early to sing, particularly if you don't have a voice," he said before launching into "No Surrender".
"The two bosses," said Robert Redwood, riffing on Springsteen's nickname, "The Boss." The 30-year-old University of Wisconsin Hospital resident physician staked out a choice spot about 50 yards from the stage. "'Thunder Road' is my favorite song," he said. "I sing it often in the shower."
Obama's campaign erected a stage on a one-block street running between the Capitol and a convention center on the shores of Lake Monona. The crowd, decked out in overcoats, parkas and stocking caps, filled the block up to the Capitol. A small army of Secret Service agents, sheriff's deputies and Madison police patrolled the sidewalks and a Blackhawk helicopter circled the Capitol ahead of the president's appearance.
Sheryl Lilke, a 43-year-old yoga instructor from Madison, showed up with her 10-year-old son, Julian Cooper. She said she saw Obama the last time he was in Madison about a month ago, and that this time she wanted to see Springsteen as much as the president.
"We would not have come again if it weren't for Bruce," she said. "It's good energy in a time that's very stressed."
Cooper said he was just glad to get out of a half-day of school.
The scene was reminiscent of the massive protests outside the Capitol over Republican Gov. Scott Walker's law stripping most public workers of nearly all their collective bargaining rights. Fourteen Democratic state senators fled Wisconsin in a futile attempt to block a vote on the proposal and Democrats forced a number of Republican officeholders, including Walker, into recall elections as payback.
State Sen. Jon Erpenbach, one of the Democrats who left the state, tried to stoke up the old anger over that proposal as he warmed up the crowd.