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In Virginia stop, Michelle Obama reaches out to women

Cliff Owen / AP

First lady Michelle Obama has her photograph made with patrons at Mom's Apple Pie Bakery in Occoquan, Va., Thursday, June 7, 2012.


DALE CITY, VA --- Campaigning for her husband in Virginia's vote-rich Prince William County on Thursday, first lady Michelle Obama focused on women's economic and physical well-being, telling a largely female crowd of supporters that the administration's efforts to offer preventative health services like contraception isn't an election year ploy.

"Protecting women’s health is a mission that has nothing to do with politics,” she told an audience of about 700 volunteers and Obama backers.  “It’s about ensuring that women have the screenings we need to stay healthy and the health care we need when we are sick and it’s about ensuring that women can make basic health decisions for ourselves."

The first lady, in one of her first solo appearances open to reporters, emphasized the president's push for equal pay for women, whom she said often serve as "the breadwinners" in American families.

"It is now easier for women to get equal pay for equal work," she said to applause.

Mrs. Obama urged supporters to keep those accomplishments in mind when they boost the president in conversations with people in their communities.

And that includes "the yoga people."

"Reach out to your friends and your neighbors and your colleagues and your congregation and your social club members," she said. "And the other ladies you have tea with, and the people you walk with in the morning, and the yoga people," she said.

The first lady appeared in Virginia's Prince William County, an area that George W. Bush won handily in 2000 and 2004 but that swung in Obama's favor by a 58 percent to 42 percent margin in 2008.  The diverse audience at the event appeared to reflect the area's cultural melting-pot; per the Census Bureau, African-American and Latino residents make up more than half of Dale City's population.

Minority populations -- as well as female voters -- will be key to Obama's efforts to beat Mitt Romney in battleground Virginia in the fall.

That's a fight that will not be easy, she added.

"This election will be closer than the last one," she said. "That we can count on."