MILWAUKEE — President Barack Obama worked to squash GOP hopes for a resurgence in pivotal Wisconsin on Saturday, pushing back against his GOP rival's complaints about an overly intrusive government and attracting his biggest crowd of the campaign. Mitt Romney took precious time away from campaigning in the battleground states to troll for cash in California and kept up his criticism of the president for fostering a culture of dependency.
The president faulted Romney for advancing a top-down economic approach that "never works."
"The country doesn't succeed when only the folks at the very top are doing well," he said. "We succeed when the middle class is doing well."
Obama, speaking to an energized throng of 18,000 people in an at-times-rainy outdoor amphitheater, made a point of renewing his pledge to create a million manufacturing jobs as he campaigned in a state whose manufacturing industry has been hard hit in recent years.
With just six weekends left before Election Day, both candidates were devoting considerable time to raising cash to continue bankrolling the deluge of ads already saturating hotly contested states.
Baseball great Hank Aaron supplied the star power at Obama's Milwaukee fundraisers.
"As one who wore the number 44 on his back for decades, I ask you to join me in helping the 44th president of the United States hit a grand slam," said Aaron.
Romney, who is expected to launch a more aggressive campaign schedule this week, hunted for West Coast cash, if not votes, at a private fundraiser near San Diego and headed for another in Los Angeles. Some Republicans have grumbled that he's not spending enough time with voters in swing states, and Romney seemed to take note of that sentiment.
"I've got good news: This is the last fundraiser in San Diego," Romney told supporters. "I'm not even going to be able to go home today. We're just coming to town to see you and keep the campaign going. It's nonstop."
Romney adviser Kevin Madden said the GOP nominee would begin "a really intense battleground state schedule." The former Massachusetts governor will campaign in Colorado, Ohio and Virginia this week.
With running mates Joe Biden and Paul Ryan campaigning in New England and Florida, respectively, the presidential campaign was spread far and wide. Biden revved up union activists poised to canvass for votes in New Hampshire while Ryan appealed to Hispanic voters in Miami and talked space policy in Orlando.
It was Obama's first visit to Wisconsin since February, and the president was intent on shoring up support in Ryan's home state. Obama's politicking included an unscheduled stop at a local deli, where he tried out some bratwurst in a pretzel roll with spicy mustard — and managed to chat up a few patrons from Ohio, another crucial state.
Obama won Wisconsin easily in 2008 but Ryan is popular here and recent polls have Obama up by single digits. The GOP showed its strength in fending off efforts to recall Republican Gov. Scott Walker, but the Obama campaign says Democrats "continue to have a strategic advantage," with more field offices and political infrastructure in the state.