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Obama Launches 2012 Campaign With Post-State of the Union Trip to Wisconsin

Jan. 25: President Obama addresses Congress during his State of the Union Address as Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker John Boehner listen.AP

Just hours after delivering his second State of the Union address, President Obama was headed to Wisconsin Wednesday to sell the five "pillars" of change he espoused as the foundation for the second half of his term. 

The message of innovation, education, infrastructure, deficit reduction and government reform are also likely themes behind the president's 2012 re-election campaign. 

With the lengthy speech to Congress behind him, the president begins his "White House to Main Street" tour with his seventh trip to the critical swing state since taking office. In the Badger State, Obama will visit Orion Energy Systems, a manufacturing company in Manitowoc, Wis., that designs and creates energy efficient lighting and renewable solar technology for American businesses. Obama will tour the site and deliver remarks to its employees. 

Innovations in technology and clean energy were major themes of the president's remarks Tuesday night. In his address, Obama pivoted his administration from focusing on stopping the economic decline to recovery through reinvention. He urged Congress to set a goal of providing 80 percent of America's electricity from clean energy sources by 2035, and said new challenges -- particularly in alternative fuel projects -- would be backed with government investment. 

"We're telling America's scientists and engineers that if they assemble teams of the best minds in their fields, and focus on the hardest problems in clean energy, we'll fund the Apollo Projects of our time," Obama told Congress. " And to help pay for it, I'm asking Congress to eliminate the billions in taxpayer dollars we currently give to oil companies. I don't know if you've noticed, but they're doing just fine on their own. So instead of subsidizing yesterday's energy, let's invest in tomorrow's. 

For Orion, it's a pleasing pledge to hear. 

In March of 2009, Orion Energy Systems CEO and President Neil Verfuerth spoke on a panel at the White House, advising Obama on clean energy and innovation. At the time Obama praised Verfuerth for providing energy-saving lighting to Fortune 500 companies and his company's work on new 70,000 square-foot, energy efficient office and technology center. 

Wednesday's trip is the president's opportunity to see that new facilities firsthand and demonstrate to the nation an example of a successful American company -- one that is adding jobs while moving forward with creative green initiatives -- just what the president needs to convince voters he's deserving of re-election. Verfuerth is also in a position to assist the president as Obama reaches out to the business community in an effort to prove himself an ally rather than adversary of private enterprise. 

As election season ignites on the back of the presidential address, that's just the re-imaging the president needs. While it is customary for presidents to take a trip to the heartland to reinforce the message of the State of the Union, the selection of the swing state of Wisconsin is notable. 

The president won the state handily in the 2008 election, and Wisconsin is the birthplace of the labor movement 

But the state recently elected Republican Gov. Scott Walker and ousted longtime liberal Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold, suggesting Wisconsin could be back in play in 2012. 

In an op-ed addressed to the president in Wednesday's Milwaukee Sentinel-Journal, Wisconsin's new Republican senator, Ron Johnson, wrote that the message of November's election is that government is too large, intrusive and costly. 

"Washington's agenda has put a stranglehold on our economy. The pitiful result of the stimulus package is proof that growing government does not grow our economy. We need a thriving private sector to do that. We need to encourage and incentivize entrepreneurs, not tax and regulate them to death," Johnson wrote. "What America has accomplished over its short history is truly remarkable. America is exceptional -- it is precious. And we are bankrupting it. Americans hunger for leadership. They want leaders who understand that the only way to set America's economy back on the right path is to promote freedom, protect the free market system and respect our founders' vision of limited government." 

Johnson joined Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Preibus on Wednesday to note the president's trip to the battleground. Priebus said the state is a "microcosm" of the country and essential for Obama to win to get to a second term. Preibus said after all the changes in the November election, his suspicion is that Obama's map "doesn't add up" without Wisconsin in his column.

While Obama's 2012 campaign office isn't expected to open in Chicago before the end of March, the West Wing has been preparing for its launch, shifting roles for key aides like David Axelrod and David Plouffe, both instrumental to the president's 2008 victory. President Biden was also headed out to Indiana on Wednesday to sell the administration's new priorities. 

No sitting president has visited Manitowoc before, though John F. Kennedy did hold a campaign event there in 1960. In addition to Wednesday's visit to Orion, the president will make stops at two other companies in Manitowoc -- Skana Aluminum Company and Tower Tech Systems. Skana, which closed down in 2008, was recently awarded a $650,000 state grant to redevelop the site that will employ about 110 people. Tower Tech is a wind turbine power manufacturer with about 300 employees.

Fox News' Sarah Courtney contributed to this report.

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