Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Published Friday, Oct. 26, 2012 | 2:56 p.m.
Updated Friday, Oct. 26, 2012 | 4:20 p.m.
First lady Michelle Obama, closing out a week in which both presidential candidates also visited Southern Nevada, told a Las Vegas audience Friday afternoon that their votes could help sway the election.
Mrs. Obama addressed a crowd of approximately 1,000 at Orr Middle School, arguing for a second term for President Barack Obama. After wishing the crowd a happy Nevada Day, the first lady fired up the audience with a 34-minute speech that had one overriding message: Vote; the earlier, the better.
“We only got 11 more days,” the first lady said. “The folks in this room alone could swing an entire precinct.”
Obama won Nevada by 12 points in 2008, but this time around the race is expected to be tight, with the latest poll showing Obama up 3 points in the state.
“As my husband has said over and over again, this election will be even closer than the last one. It can all come down to what happens in just a few key battleground states like right here in Nevada,” Mrs. Obama said. “Think back to what happened in 2008. Barack won this state by 121,000 votes. Well, now that might sound like a lot. But if you take that number and work it across all the precincts in this state, that’s just 69 votes per precinct.”
The first lady reminded the crowd about the state of the U.S. economy when her husband took office in 2008 and what he’s been able to accomplish since then.
“Think back to when Barack first took office” she asked the crowd. “Where was this country? We were on the brink of collapse as an economy. … You’ll recall the auto industry was in crisis. This economy was losing 800,000 jobs a month. And a lot of folks were wondering if we were headed for another Great Depression.”
As her husband completes his first term, the first lady said, the economy is improving. The president, she said, needs four more years to completely right the ship.
“There are more and more signs every day that we are headed in the right direction,” she said. “The stock market has doubled, exports have grown by 45 percent (and) manufacturers have added 500,000 jobs. We’ve had 31 straight months, that’s the majority of my husband’s presidency, with private-sector job growth.”
Mrs. Obama’s speech focused more on the president’s accomplishments, but the first lady did slip in some barbs about GOP nominee Mitt Romney.
“We believe in keeping our priorities straight. What am I saying? We know good and well that cutting ‘Sesame Street’ is no way to balance the budget,” she said, referring to a comment by Romney in the first presidential debate in which he suggested cutting funding for the Public Broadcasting Service. “We know that short-changing our kids is not how we tackle this deficit.”
On Thursday the first lady was in California, where she attended a fundraiser at the home of actor Will Smith and spoke at a campaign rally.
While in California, a state that is expected to go for the president, the first lady encouraged supporters to come to Nevada in the final days of the campaign to help turn out Obama voters in the Silver State.
“(F)or those of you who want to really get out there and roll up your sleeves, you can do that,” Obama told supporters in Calabasas, Calif. “You can sign up at California.BarackObama.com to go to Nevada, to knock on doors. These last few days before the election are so critical, especially next weekend and Election Day. So if you can give even just one or two days, we need you to head to Nevada and help us get out the vote in that state.”
Christina Delouth, 46, an unemployed caregiver who lives in Las Vegas, voted for Obama in 2008 but did not volunteer for the campaign four years ago. This time around, Delouth has been knocking on doors, registering voters and working the campaign phone banks.
“I believe (Obama) is moving us forward, I truly do,” Delouth said while waiting for Mrs. Obama’s speech from the middle school bleachers. “When I meet people who say Obama hasn’t done enough to fix the economy, I say: ‘Check the record.’ He can’t fix everything in four years, and progress is being made. I don’t blame him for me being out of a job.”
The first lady also trumpeted the president’s withdrawal of troops from Iraq, efforts to wind down the number of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, and reform of the federal student loan system.
During her speech, Mrs. Obama encouraged those in the crowd who had not voted yet to meet at the school’s flagpole after the rally. From there, they would be led by the middle school marching band to an early voting station at Boulevard Mall.
The wife of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Landra Reid, spoke at the event before abruptly leaving as word of an accident involving the senator’s motorcade spread at the rally.
This was the first lady’s fourth visit this year to Nevada. The Democratic candidates for the 1st, 3rd and 4th congressional districts, Dina Titus, Assemblyman John Oceguera and state Sen. Steven Horsford, respectively, were in attendance at Friday’s rally.
Romney and his running mate, Paul Ryan, appeared at an event Tuesday in Henderson, and Barack Obama was in town Wednesday evening at a rally that opened with singer Katy Perry.