RALEIGH — First Lady Michelle Obama campaigned across North Carolina Wednesday in what was part pre-convention pep rally, fundraising jaunt, and a vigorous defense of her husbands administration.
Capping the day at a Raleigh fundraiser, Obama cautioned that everything that her husband had championed during the past four years from the new health care law to an expansion of the student loan program was in jeopardy this fall.
It is all at stake this November, the First Lady said. Its all on the line. Are we going to allow everything we fought for to slip away? We cant turn back now. We need to keep moving forward.
Obama made her comments to about 400 people at a fundraiser at the Raleigh Marriott City Center. The basic cost of the event was $250 per person, although various categories of giving went as high as $50,000. Among those attending was Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton, the Democratic nominee for governor.
The money will help fuel the multimillion-dollar TV ad wars being waged in North Carolina.
But the Obama campaign is also relying heavily on an extensive voter organizational effort.
Earlier in the day, the First Lady spoke to 2,400 people at a rally in a gym on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. In doing so, she hit two of the three major media markets in what numerous polls have shown is a closely contested state a month before the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte.
In both Greensboro and Raleigh, Obama touted her It Takes One program, in which every Obama supporter is urged to ask a friend or neighbor to get involved in the campaign.
Are you in? she asked the crowd in Raleigh. Are you really in?
To underscore the importance of the grassroots effort, she made an unscheduled stop at the Obama storefront headquarters in downtown Raleigh before her fundraiser.
She greeted about 30 volunteers being trained as neighborhood team leaders, who said they had been informed of the First Ladys visit only about 10 minutes before her motorcade showed up.
When she entered the storefront office, she was greeted with cheers.
I just dropped by, Obama said. I hope you werent busy. Then she quipped, I hope you were busy.
She dropped off fresh fruit purchased at the North Carolina farmers market including apples, bananas, blueberries and cherries.
She individually hugged most of the volunteers, exchanging pleasantries and words of encouragement.
Were praying for you, said one middle-aged man.
It was wonderful, said Sara Stoler, a volunteer from Raleigh, who is organizing the Oakwood neighborhood. We werent expecting it all. We do a lot of this work and we dont expect payback.
At the fundraiser, the First Lady described her husbands nearly four years in the White House as ones of accomplishment, whether it was helping turn around an economy in distress, making health care more available and affordable, increasing the availability of student loans, or helping make the country safer through the hunting down of terrorists such as Osama bin Laden.
She also defended her husbands economic record, saying the economy was shedding 250,000 jobs when he became president and has since gained four million new jobs.
Yes, we have a long way to go to rebuild our economy, she acknowledged. Today there are millions of people out there collecting a paycheck again.
She said during the Obama administration, working families saw their taxes cut $3,600. She said taxes for small businesses were cut 18 times because he knows the majority of our economy starts with the restaurants and the stores and the startups.
The First Lady also launched a vigorous defense of the health care law pushed through by her husband.
Over the past century so many of our presidents have tried and failed to meet the challenge of health care reform, she said. Her husband, she said, was inspired by stories of grandparents who could not afford medications or families that lost all their savings because a child got sick, or a woman dying of cancer whose insurance company cut her off.
Now, because of the new health care law, Obama said, seniors are paying hundreds less for their prescription drugs, young people can be kept on their parents policies, those with pre-existing conditions cannot be denied policies, and sick people cannot be denied policies because they have reached lifetime caps.
Do we want these reforms repealed? she asked.
Nooo, replied the crowd.