On Walker's turf, Obama draws sharp contrasts with 'mean' Republicans, promotes overtime rule



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LA CROSSE, Wisconsin — Wading into presidential politics, President Barack Obama on Thursday promoted his brand of middle-class economics by drawing sharp contrasts with "mean" Republicans in the state where the GOP governor was preparing to enter the vast 2016 presidential field.

"They're good people," Obama said of Republicans. "It's just their ideas are bad."

Obama leveled some of his sharpest criticism of Republicans, who disagree with him on most matters, on the issue of health care, exactly one week after the Supreme Court upheld a key component of the law and Obama declared it "here to stay."

Republicans in Congress have cast dozens of votes to repeal the law, and they have vowed to keep trying.

"Every single one of them is still obsessed with repealing the Affordable Care Act, despite the fact that by every measure it's working," Obama said. "It just seems a little mean to say that you don't want to provide coverage" to millions of people who've gained it under the law "and you got nothing to replace it with."

"That's a bad idea," the president said.

Obama traveled to Wisconsin to tout a Labor Department proposal that would make more salaried workers eligible for overtime pay. The move is strongly supported by organized labor groups that have been at odds with the president over his push for a free-trade pact with Asia-Pacific countries.

Despite labor's opposition, Obama scored a victory on Capitol Hill to get fast-track authority for the pending trade deal. The legislative win — he signed the bills earlier this week — kicked off a strong stretch for the president, including Supreme Court rulings on health care and affirming gay marriage nationwide.

Obama told the crowd at the University of Madison at La Crosse that it's been "a remarkable few weeks in America."

The president was greeted at the airport by Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who planned to file the necessary paperwork with federal election officials on Thursday to formally begin his long-expected candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination.

While in the state, Obama seemed unable to resist poking fun at a GOP presidential field that will top out at 15 with Walker's entry.

"We've got some healthy competition in the Democratic Party, but I've lost count of how many Republicans are running," he said, adding that the GOP has so many candidates that the party will have enough to put on a national "Hunger Games."

"That's an interesting bunch," Obama said.

Obama said there's more work to do to increase workers' wages, despite the fact that U.S. unemployment rate hit a seven-year low of 5.3 percent in June.

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