First Lady Stresses Virginia's Importance in Election

First lady Michelle Obama sought to energize her husband's Virginia supporters Thursday by emphasizing the state's importance in the presidential election.

“All the hard work, all the progress we've made, it's all on the line,” Obama told several hundred people who packed a downtown Richmond theater.

“It could all come down to what happens in a few battleground states like Virginia,” she said.

That's what happened four years ago, when Barack Obama became the first Democratic presidential candidate to carry Virginia since 1964. The first lady urged the Richmond crowd not to be misled by Obama's 235,000-vote margin of victory in Virginia, noting that it works out to only about 100 votes per precinct.

“It could be a couple of votes in your neighborhood, a single vote in your apartment building,” she said in urging supporters to get their friends and neighbors to the polls.

“Win enough precincts, we win Virginia,” she said. “Win Virginia and we will be well on our way to putting Barack Obama back in the White House.”

The crowd greeted Obama with a chant of “four more years” and later erupted in cheers when she asked, “Are you fired up?”

Her nearly half-hour speech touched on familiar campaign themes as she touted the president's record on job creation, health care reform, women's issues and other matters.

She also echoed what her husband acknowledged at the Democratic National Convention -- that much work remains to be done. Obama said that under the president's leadership, “we've slowly but surely been pulling ourselves out of the hole we started in,” and she asked supporters if they were going to let the progress slip away. The reply was a booming “No!”

On a more somber note, Obama said her family's hearts and prayers were with the families of the four people killed in the attack on the U.S. embassy in Libya. She said that “those brave Americans who died in that tragedy and men and women just like them, they are the face of American diplomacy” and they often do their work in harm's way.

Pamela Henderson, a 49-year-old Navy veteran who now works in consumer electronics, wore a Michelle Obama button and was beaming as the crowd streamed out after the speech.

“She fills our heart with joy,” Henderson said, adding that she believes the president is working hard to get the economy on track.

Jeannea Spence, a Richmond leadership coach, was among about a dozen neighborhood team leaders for Obama who met personally with the first lady before the speech.

“She's warm and personable, genuine, passionate and cares about everybody, but especially about the volunteers,” said Spence, who had not met the first lady before Thursday.

Spence, 50, said this is the first time she's gotten involved in a political campaign. She said someone from the Obama campaign called and asked her to volunteer the same day Republican U.S. Rep. Todd Akin of Missouri made his infamous comment about women's bodies being able to avoid pregnancy in cases of what he called “legitimate rape.”

“So I as fired up,” Spence said. “That put me into action. I thought, ‘There's no way I can't be part of this.’”

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney joined in the almost universal condemnation of Akin's remarks and said the congressman should drop his campaign for the U.S. Senate.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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