Elections

Michelle Obama praises Clinton at Raleigh rally

Michelle Obama campaigns for Hillary Clinton in Raleigh

First Lady Michelle Obama addresses the crowd during a campaign stop for Hillary Clinton on Tuesday, October 4, 2016 at Reynolds Coliseum in Raleigh, N.C.
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First Lady Michelle Obama addresses the crowd during a campaign stop for Hillary Clinton on Tuesday, October 4, 2016 at Reynolds Coliseum in Raleigh, N.C.

Michelle Obama urged a crowd at N.C. State’s Reynolds Coliseum to work for Hillary Clinton’s election, saying she is among the most experienced people ever to run for president.

“It’s not enough to come to a rally, get a selfie,” Obama said. “It’s not enough to get angry.”

Obama criticized Republican Donald Trump throughout her speech without naming him. Trump questioned whether President Barack Obama was born in the United States.

“People asked whether Barack was born in this country,” Obama said. “These questions were hurtful and deceitful, designed to undermine his presidency. They can’t be blamed on others and swept under the rug.”

The first lady launched onto the campaign trail to support Clinton last month with appearances at universities in Virginia and Pennsylvania. At the coliseum, hundreds of college students filled the seats and stood in front of the podium, mixing with post-college-age Clinton supporters.

Shaquilla Hamlett, 21, attended her first political rally. Hamlett said Michelle Obama “connects with young people,” and offers inspiration to students “to do better in life.”

Michael Sollace, 60, is a longtime supporter of Bill and Hillary Clinton. He has a photo in his phone of his son shaking former President Bill Clinton’s hand.

Hamlett and Sollace both said they supported Bernie Sanders during the Democratic primaries, but will vote enthusiastically for Clinton.

“She’s the best option,” Hamlett said of Clinton.

Hamlett, an animal science and creative writing major, is interested in Clinton’s debt-free college plan.

Sollace said he went bankrupt paying medical bills when he had cancer, but still paid taxes, so he didn’t like the news that broke this week that it’s possible Trump could have avoided paying taxes for 18 years. “Oh, and what he said about vets,” Sollace said, referring to Trump’s comments Monday suggesting veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder “can’t handle it.”

“My father came back from World War II with undiagnosed PTSD,” Sollace said.

Donald Trump held an event in Virginia on Monday, saying at one point that veterans who suffer from PTSD are not “strong.” Hillary Clinton reacted to Trump's leaked tax returns, asking how he could lose a billion dollars.

Michelle Obama referenced this week’s Trump controversies on taxes and PTSD.

“Not paying taxes for years and years while the rest of us pay our fair share does not make you smarter than the rest of us,” Obama said.

Sean Harrington, the president of the N.C. State College Republicans, said he wouldn’t attend Obama’s rally but that, “across the board, people seem to have favorable opinions of the first lady.”

“But there are quite a few people who are scratching their heads at the fact that the first lady is campaigning for a person who, back in 2008, she was questioning their family values,” Harrington, a junior, said.

In 2007, a comment by Obama led to questions about whether she had taken a verbal swipe at the Clintons’ marital problems, which the Obama campaign denied.

Support for the first lady

The first lady is highly popular. Americans viewed her more favorably than any of the other speakers at the Democratic National Convention in July, according to Gallup, with 58 percent having a favorable view of her.

She’s expected to campaign for Clinton across the country over the next five and a half weeks.

Ingrid Sanchez said that she and Laurie Secor left work at the Raleigh recruiting firm iSearchFinance, which Sanchez founded, early today to come see Obama speak.

“We closed down the office to be here today — literally, we work together,” Sanchez, 41, said. “There are few people who I consider as inspiring as Michelle Obama.”

She noted that both she and Secor relate to Obama as working mothers who care about their communities and about the future of the country.

“She has her finger on the pulse of what it means to be socially responsible today, but also what it means to teach our children that,” Sanchez said.

Jakini Kauba, a senior at N.C. State, said she could talk about how much she admires Michelle Obama “for days.”

“I just love her,” Kauba, who is majoring in biological sciences, said. “I’m grateful to her and her vision and the light that she has given to the country for the last eight years.”

Kauba, who plans to get her Ph.D. and start her own practice as a counseling psychologist, said she also sees Obama as a role model.

“I love the fact that she can balance being a mother, being a role model for so many different women across the country — regardless of race — and the simple fact that Barack knows who really runs the White House.”

But the Republican National Committee said in a statement that having Michelle Obama out campaigning highlights the hard time Clinton is having putting together Barack Obama’s winning coalition.

“With 35 days left until the election, Hillary Clinton is still struggling to appeal to voters from the coveted Obama coalition who remain unenthusiastic about her candidacy,” RNC spokeswoman Kara Carter said. “Unfortunately for the Clinton campaign, sending celebrities and now Michelle Obama to North Carolina only highlights the fact that she’s failed to inspire enthusiasm from the young voters she desperately needs to turn out come November 8th.”

Urges supporters to vote

Obama urged North Carolinians to register to vote, go to the polls, and encourage others to do the same.

She told supporters that North Carolina has been extremely close in the last two presidential elections. Barack Obama won the state by 14,000 votes in 2008, which Michelle Obama said was only about two votes in each precinct.

“Whoever your candidate is, understand your vote matters,” she said.

She also said Clinton is among the most experienced people ever to run for the presidency.

“When I hear people say they aren’t feeling inspired in this election, I really have to disagree,” Obama said. “Right now we have the opportunity to elect one of the most qualified people who has ever been president.”

“We can’t afford to be tired or turned off,” Obama said. “Not now.”

Steve Harrison and Jim Morrill of the Charlotte Observer contributed to this report.

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