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By keeping his distance, has Obama played Wisconsin right?

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Staying on message

Instead, Obama has remained focused on his jobs message. As things stand now, getting the unemployment rate down from its current 9 percent to closer to 8 percent by Election Day is his most important reelection task.

The president did weigh in on Wisconsin late last week, saying that “some of what I’ve heard ... seems like more of an assault on unions.” He referenced in particular Gov. Scott Walker’s effort to curtail public employees’ collective bargaining rights.

The group Organizing for America – Obama’s old political network that is now part of the Democratic National Committee – had encouraged volunteers to support the protests, but party officials say the White House was not involved.

During his first two years in office, Obama at times derailed his main message by commenting on a side issue – such as the mistaken arrest in 2009 of a black Harvard scholar by a white police officer in Cambridge, Mass., which ignited a week of public discussion about race relations, rather than health-care reform.

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