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Michelle Obama echoes convention testimony in solo campaign stop


RICHMOND, VA -- First lady Michelle Obama reprised her role from the Democratic National Convention as the president's chief character witness during a stop here Thursday in the key swing state of Virginia.

At her first solo campaign event since last week's convention, the first lady told a crowd of about 1,800 gathered inside an ornate theater about the qualities that led her to fall in love with Barack Obama 20 years ago, well before he was elected president.

“What truly made me fall in love with Barack Obama was his character,” she said as the audience cheered. “His decency. His honesty. His compassion and conviction.”

And as she did throughout her speech, Obama pointed out aspects of her husband’s life that could arguably be placed in contrast with his Republican opponent Mitt Romney.

“I loved that Barack was so committed to serving others that he turned down high-paying jobs and instead he started his career fighting to get folks back to work,” she said, leaving unspoken the fact that Mitt Romney did, in fact, start his career with a high-powered job at a consulting firm.

She continued that theme when she described her husband’s time in office so far, saying he makes “decisions that aren’t just about the bottom line, but about laying the foundation for the next generation.”

While Obama did list some of her husband’s accomplishments at the convention, she got even more expansive this time, delving briefly into his work on issues like predatory lending and foreign policy.

“He cracked down on lending abuses so that today when you apply for a mortgage or a credit card, you know exactly what you’re getting into,” she said.

And when met with naysayers who might ask what the president has done for them, she told the crowd, “Tell them how Barack ended the war in Iraq. Tell them how we took out Osama bin Laden.”

Obama also made several specific appeals to one group the campaign hopes to win over Romney: women. In the latest NBC News/WSJ poll, Obama led Romney with female voters 51 to 41 percent.

Mrs. Obama said her husband “will always have our backs” after he watched his mother and grandmother both struggle, one raising a son as a single mother and one trying to get ahead in a male-dominated workplace.

Given that she was in town to promote her It Takes One voter turnout initiative, Obama also had plenty to say about driving turnout in this crucial swing state, whose 13 votes both campaigns covet (Mitt Romney was also campaigning here today).

The rest of her speech may have been full of broad, sweeping praise of her husband, but when it came to driving the vote Mrs. Obama got into the nitty-gritty of local turnout figures.

“Back [in 2008], we won Virginia by 235,000 votes,” she said, looking to tamp down applause at the figure. “While that might sound like a lot, think about this. When you break that number down, that’s just 100 votes per precinct,” she said.

“That could mean just a couple of votes in your neighborhood, right? Just a single vote in your apartment building,” she continued, urging the crowd to spend some time at a phone bank or knocking on doors.

“Just a few of you here today could swing an entire precinct for Barack Obama. And understand this: If we win enough precincts, we will win the state.”

Like her husband, Mrs. Obama did not begin her political remarks before first recognizing the deaths in Libya of four Foreign Service officers, including the country’s U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, late Tuesday night.

“And it's just important to say that our hearts and our prayers are with the families of those who gave their lives serving our country,” she said solemnly. “I wanted us to start with that.”

The first lady continues her Thursday Virginia swing with a stop in Fredericksburg later in the evening.