President Calls For New Era Of Competitiveness

MANITOWOC, Wis. (AP) -- President Barack set out Wednesday to build momentum for his revamped economic message, calling for a new era of American competitiveness during a stop in Wisconsin, a state that will be critical to his reelection prospects.

A day after his State of the Union address, Obama reinforced his prime time argument that the U.S. has to step up its investments in innovation and infrastructure in order to compete in the global economy and create jobs at home.

"We're going to need to go all in. We're going to need to get serious about winning the future," Obama said during a stop at Orion Energy Systems, a power technology company in the small town of Manitowoc.

The president is calling it a new Sputnik moment, like the one in the 1950s when the Soviet Union beat the U.S. by sending a satellite into space. The challenge resonated in Manitowoc, a small city on the shores of Lake Michigan known best as the place where a 20-pound chunk of the Sputnik satellite crashed in 1962.

The stop was the first of three factory visits Obama was to make here in northern Wisconsin. He pitched forward, looking to highlight ways businesses like Orion would benefit from the proposals he outlined in Tuesday's address, including fresh investments in clean energy, research and technology.

Still seeking to convince Americans that some of the unpopular economic decisions he made during the first two years of his administration were necessary, Obama also argued that those policies were responsible for the recovery that's begun to take hold.

"New manufacturing plants, and new hopes, are taking root, part of the reason the unemployment rate here is four points lower than it was at the beginning of last year," Obama said.

Obama's stop in Wisconsin, likely a key battleground state in 2012, underscored just how quickly the White House is refocusing on the president's fast-approaching reelection campaign. Though Obama won Wisconsin in 2008, the state turned sharply to the right during last year's November elections.