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Michelle Obama lauds Hillary

From NBC/NJ's Carrie Dann

MANCHESTER, N.H. -- Two days after Hillary Clinton's husband raised eyebrows with a tepid endorsement of Obama, the spouse on the other side of the Democratic equation praised the former First Lady for bringing women's issues to the forefront of this election's debate.

Before a roundtable discussion in New Hampshire -- the state that relaunched the Democratic battle after Clinton's surprise win in January -- Michelle Obama paid homage to those who have dreamed of equal rights in America.

"I know that we are closer to this America than ever before," she told an audience of about 300 in Manchester. "And that's largely because of an extraordinary woman who's not in this room, but she's traveling with my husband tomorrow, and that woman is Hillary Clinton."

"Because of Hillary Clinton's work," she added, "the issues of importance to women and to working families are front and center in this election."

Obama appeared with former Gov. Jeanne Shaheen, who will challenge embattled New Hampshire Republican John Sununu for his U.S. Senate seat. 

Four other New Hampshire women participated in the roundtable, which focused on education, health insurance and other issues mentioned by participants as those particularly important to women voters. At one point, the aspiring First Lady quipped that the discussion between the women looked like "our version of The View."

Michelle Obama enjoyed an enthusiastic reception, especially when she described herself as a working mother, both in her current job as a campaign surrogate and in her former life as a hospital executive.

She noted that women, and all Americans, often "suffer in silence," rather than complain about the trials and tribulations of an economy that can be tough on families.

"That is the beauty of America," she said. "We are grateful, and we are willing to struggle and work hard. But at some point we have to say, 'Enough.'"

But the biggest applause came for her shoutout to her husband's former rival. Mentioning tomorrow's much-anticipated joint Clinton-Obama campaign event in quaintly chosen Unity, N.H., she said, "We are so incredibly proud and pleased to have her support."