In Raleigh, Michelle Obama touts Clinton to millennials

Tuesday, October 4, 2016
Michelle Obama campaigns in Raleigh
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The first lady campaigns for Hillary Clinton in Raleigh.

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- Michelle Obama is one of the most popular of Hillary Clinton's surrogates and the turnout at NC State was proof positive. It was an almost festive air as thousands of people waited to hear the first lady speak.

The bleachers along the sides and one end of the 5,000 capacity building were packed solid as thousands in the seats waited for the headliner (almost an hour late) and warm up acts praised the top of the ticket.

Former Democratic Gov. Jim Hunt took the podium to standing applause and boomed, "I know Hillary Clinton. I trust Hillary Clinton."

Hunt assured the crowd that Hillary Clinton would be the best early education president the country had ever had.

Senate candidate Deborah Ross took the stage next to even bigger applause. Ross has become a very popular surrogate in her own right, often appearing on the campaign trail at Clinton rallies and getting huge cheers along the way.

WATCH: Michelle Obama's full speech in Raleigh

But it was Michelle Obama they were there to see and the room erupted when she walked on stage. Obama's mission was clear from the start: to win over millennials. A critical voting bloc in this year's election, younger voters made up a major part of President Barack Obama's winning coalition and there's broad consensus that Clinton needs significant millennial support to win in November.

And turning out the vote is exactly what students waiting in line to see Obama said they were interested in hearing.

"I want her to talk about how important it is for students to vote," said Sam Chen. "Especially because it's such a low demographic and lots of students don't vote. And they fought really hard here last year at NC State to get a polling place on campus."

"I really hope she encourages young people to vote and support Hillary Clinton," said NC State student Lauren Frey. "Especially some of my peers who were Bernie supporters; I hope she really encourage them to vote for Hillary."

For Jacqueline Perry, from Raleigh, this marked the second time she'd seen Michelle Obama. "I am a big fan of the first lady. I saw (President) Obama when he was here a few years ago and I got to make the family complete," Perry said with a smile.


Michelle Obama didn't disappoint. In her 30-minute remarks, she made repeated appeals to the crowd, not just to vote but to involve themselves in the electoral process. Ross framed it in terms of "callers and haulers" -- those critical volunteers who either make phone calls to rally the vote or actually drive people to the polls.

The crowd at Reynolds Coliseum waits for Michelle Obama to speak Tuesday afternoon.
Jon Camp

Clinton's campaign is hoping by sending out strong surrogates like Obama it will put her over the top in November. And Michelle Obama, who never mentioned Donald Trump by name, pounded him on everything from his taxes to his temperament.

On the birther issue, she said, "These questions were hurtful, deceitful, and deliberately intended to undermine my husband's presidency."

Of the job of president, she said: "This job is hard. The easy questions don't even get to the presidency. We need someone who will take the job seriously. Someone who will study and prepare. Someone with superb judgement."

The clear references to Trump were impossible to miss.

"Someone tweeting at 3 a.m. should not have their finger on the nuclear button," she said.

She went after Trump's taxes, again, not by name.

"We need someone who is honest and plays by the rules because not paying taxes for years and years while the rest of us pay our fair share, that doesn't make you smarter than the rest of us. See, we need a president who will choose to do what's best for the country even it doesn't personally benefit them."

Obama didn't let up. "The presidency doesn't change who you are, it reveals who you are. The same is true of a presidential campaign.

"If a candidate traffics fear and lies on the campaign trail; if a candidate mocks people who are disabled or sick; if a candidate implies our veterans are weak because they can't deal with the wounds of war; if a candidate regularly demeans women, criticizing how we look and act. See, well, sadly that's who that candidate really is.

"No one in this race has (Clinton's) experience. Not Barack, not Bill. Nobody."

Then, the line that got the biggest applause of the afternoon. "And yes, she happens to be a woman."

Obama summed up with laying out what she sees as the choice in November.

"Either Clinton or her opponent will be the president. And if you don't vote for her or at all, you'll be helping her opponent, and the stakes are far too high to take that chance. It's not about the perfect candidate. There is no such thing. In this election, it's about a choice between two very different candidates with very different visions. So the question is do you want Hillary to be your president or her opponent to be your president?"

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