Clinton Ushers In Her Closer -- Michelle Obama

Clinton Ushers In Her Closer -- Michelle Obama
AP Photo/Chuck Burton
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WINTON-SALEM, N.C.—In a sign of how effective Michelle Obama has become on the campaign trail this year, Hillary Clinton introduced the first lady at her own get-out-the-vote rally here Thursday.

“Seriously, is there anybody more inspiring than Michelle Obama?” Clinton asked the crowd of about 14,000 at Wake Forest University, where the two women campaigned together for the first time. They embraced on stage to mark the moment, and Mrs. Obama moved to put to rest any notion of a lasting rivalry between the two families after a bitter primary more than eight years ago. “If people wonder … yes, she is my friend,” the first lady said of Clinton, urging audience members to head to the polls after the rally to vote early “for my girl.”

Ahead in national polls and those in key battleground states with less than two weeks before votes are counted, Clinton brought Mrs. Obama with her to North Carolina—a state Democrats hope to turn blue to cut off Donald Trump’s path to the presidency—to discourage voters from sitting out, even if victory appears likely. “Vote as soon as you can,” Clinton told the crowd before ceding the podium to her surrogate.

Clinton is the Democratic nominee but judging by the reaction from the crowd and the sequencing of the event, Mrs. Obama was the headliner. She has been received as one of the most powerful speakers on behalf of Democrats and in defense of Clinton this cycle, from her address at the party convention in Philadelphia to her speech on sexual assault in Manchester, N.H., earlier this month. Clinton has borrowed Mrs. Obama’s “when they go low, we go high” line, and supporters have come to recite it at rallies.

The first lady’s popularity, particularly among Democrats and young adults, is vital to turning out voters for Clinton, whose unfavorable ratings remain high in the polls. If elected, she faces the prospect of being the most unpopular president to take office. The steady release of emails by WikiLeaks continues to shadow her campaign and underscore liabilities that would likely endure after the election. (The latest emails show apparent links between the Clinton Foundation and former President Bill Clinton’s personal income.) 

The president’s wife has become especially integral in enthusing voters, especially amid concerns of complacency among Democrats as polls continue to show Clinton in the lead. Campaigning in a  key Florida county Wednesday, Clinton urged voters to pay no attention to the polls. “Don’t get complacent,” she told them.

A Quinnipiac University survey released Thursday found her leading Trump in North Carolina by four points. The RealClearPolitics average shows the former secretary of state 2.4 percentage points ahead there. Mitt Romney won the state by two points four years ago, despite the Democrats holding their convention in Charlotte that summer.

For her part, Mrs. Obama emphasized the power of each person’s vote. She reminded the audience of her husband’s mere 14,000-vote victory in North Carolina eight years ago, which she said amounted to a two-votes-per-precinct lead. Her husband lost the state in 2012 by 17 votes per precinct, she added. States like North Carolina “are decided on a razor’s edge. Each of you could swing an entire precinct and win this election for Hillary. You can do this. But you could also swing an entire precinct for Hillary’s opponent—by a protest vote or not voting at all.”

Mrs. Obama said that if Clinton doesn’t win the election, “that will be on us. It will be because we did not vote for her. And that is exactly what her opponent is hoping will happen.” 

On Thursday, Bloomberg reported that the Trump campaign, under the direction of Chairman Steven Bannon, is focusing the final days of the campaign on surpassing Clinton’s turnout, targeting young women, African-Americans, and liberals. 

Trump has also continued to speak about a “rigged” election and calls the media and current polling dishonest.

“When you hear folks talking about a global conspiracy and saying that this election is rigged, understand they are trying to get you to stay home,” Mrs. Obama said, declining -- as she usually does -- to mention Trump by name. “Casting our vote is the ultimate way we go high.”

Members of the audience interviewed by RCP said they think the closeness of the race in their home state, along with a key U.S. Senate and gubernatorial race there, will spur Democrats to vote. Several said Mrs. Obama “energized” people. “The stakes are so high,” said Diane Harney, a retired college professor who lives in Winston Salem. She plans on going to the polls early next week.

Caitlin Huey-Burns is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at chueyburns@realclearpolitics.com. Follow her on Twitter @CHueyBurnsRCP.

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