‘Are you in?’: First lady starts on campaign trail

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Michelle Obama made her first foray into the 2012 presidential campaign on Thursday, telling donors in Washington, D.C., that her husband needs them to “work like you have never worked before” so he can finish the job he started.

Though the first lady said President Obama has accomplished much in almost 2 1/2 years, she told a Democratic Party women’s group that there’s a lot more to do, with a long and difficult campaign ahead.

Addressing the annual national issues conference of the Democratic National Committee’s Women’s Leadership Forum, the first lady hit many of the same notes the president has in his recent campaign speeches.

She talked about turning around an economy in decline, cutting taxes for the middle class, overhauling the health care and financial systems, and providing more financial aid for college students. She mentioned repealing the ban on gays in military service and bringing home troops from Iraq after the end of formal combat operations.

Because part of her mission was to appeal to women, Mrs. Obama noted that the president had put two “brilliant” women on the Supreme Court and had made an equal-pay law the first piece of legislation he signed in the White House.

“I think that it’s fair to say that we’ve seen some change and we should be proud of what we’ve accomplished,” Mrs. Obama said. “But we should not be satisfied.”

She didn’t mention any of the Republicans who are running or thinking about running against her husband. But implicit in her 20-minute speech was the sentiment that he’s the one who will make the country a better place for the next generation.

“So I have one question for you. Are you in?” she said, riffing on the Obama campaign’s re-election theme. “I hope that all of you are fired up. I hope that all of you are ready to go.”

In 2008, Mrs. Obama overcame early reservations about Mr. Obama’s decision to run for president and ended up becoming a popular stand-in for him on the campaign trail. On Thursday, she discussed her cynicism about that campaign and politics in general and said she would work harder this time, too.

Mrs. Obama spoke Sunday at a private fundraiser for younger Obama supporters in Atlanta, but Thursday’s speech was her first before a large group during this campaign cycle.

In the fall, she made about a half-dozen appearances on behalf of Democratic Senate candidates campaigning for the midterm elections, but she has no formal campaign schedule for the year.

Proceeds from the conference were to go to the Obama Victory Fund to be shared between the Democratic National Committee and Mr. Obama’s re-election campaign.

Democratic officials declined to say how much money was raised, citing competitive reasons.

The president was scheduled to address the group Thursday evening.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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