GREEN BAY -- The ultimate brand name in Wisconsin is undoubtedly the Green Bay Packers, and the team has a marked effect on politics in the state.
At a rally along Milwaukee's lakefront at the Summerfest grounds over the weekend, President Barack Obama (a Chicago Bears fan) took the time to acknowledge a couple of Green Bay Packers players in the audience.
Packers' tight end Jermichael Finley and injured linebacker Desmond Bishop were in attendance at Saturday's rally. Bishop missed the chance to meet President Obama when the Super Bowl champs went to the White House because Bishop left his wallet and his photo ID on the plane, but he got a second chance on Saturday.
Obama said their presence shows that the nation isn’t as divided as people think. In his words, “We’re not Bears fans first, we’re not Packers fans first, we’re Americans first.”
He acknowledged with a smile that Finley and Bishop ribbed him about the results of the Bears-Packers game in Week 2, a 23-10 Green Bay win.
President Obama knows talking Packers football is a universal way to connect with Wisconsin voters.
Wearing green and gold gear can give a politician a subtle association with the team. When Republican vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan comes to town, he makes sure to campaign in a Packers shirt.
UW-Milwaukee Professor of Governmental Affairs Mordecai Lee says Packers gear and player appearances will likely bring a candidate attention, but not necessarily votes.
"(The Green Bay Packers) have this unbelievable following. The Packers are so deeply entrenched in Wisconsin culture that they're the ultimate endorsement, but it doesn't really change a lot. I mean, who says 'I was going to vote against President Obama, but this particular Packer was on the stage with him at this rally, and therefore I'm voting for Obama.' I want to meet that person," Lee said.
The green and gold can bring goodwill for a candidate, and that can help toward the ultimate goal of winning the election.