First lady stumps for President Obama in Fla.
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) -- With her husband tied up much of the week managing the response to Superstorm Sandy, first lady Michelle Obama arrived in Florida Thursday to speak to his supporters in Jacksonville, Daytona Beach and Miami.
She hammered at the importance of volunteers working to finish the final five days of the campaign strongly with ramped up get-out-the-vote efforts.
She told the crowd inside a packed convention hall at Daytona Beach's Ocean Center that their continued commitment down the stretch could again help turn the tide in a state that saw President Barack Obama win by about 236,000 votes in 2008. Michelle Obama said that margin averaged to 36 votes per precinct in Florida, and added that "this room alone could make the difference."
"It can be the difference in us waking up and asking ourselves `Could we have done more?' or waking up and feeling the promise of four more years," she said.
Early voting is underway across the Sunshine State and the first lady spent each stop trying to firm up the Democratic president's message about what he believes is at stake for Florida voters going into Tuesday's election. Vans were parked outside convention centers in both Jacksonville and Daytona, ready to take voters to early-voting stations.
The president cancelled his appearance in Orlando on Monday as Sandy prepared to make landfall and he has since been using surrogates, including President Bill Clinton, to keep a presence in a state that may again play a pivotal role in a presidential race.
But the first lady was sensitive to campaigning while many are still suffering in Sandy's aftermath. She began her speech in downtown Miami reminding a crowd of about 4,000 that "Barack has been working around the clock with governors and mayors...to make sure they have the support and resources they need" to begin the rebuilding process.
"We cannot forget that there is real life going on out there," she said.
She spent the rest of her speeches urging supporters to take advantage of early voting and to implore their friends and neighbors to do the same. This week, officials said 2 million Floridians and 20 million people nationwide had already voted early, either in person or by absentee ballot.
"We've got a plan and it involves you," she said. "You're at the core of this plan ... The thing about early voting is life happens. Election Day is just one day."
Michelle Obama also underlined a major part of the president's closing argument: that another term in office would mean getting the country's economy back on track, acknowledging that too many Americans are still struggling.
"While he's proud of what we've achieved together, my husband is nowhere near satisfied," she said. "Slowly, but surely we've been pulling ourselves out of that hole we started in."
Actress Gabrielle Union, who is dating Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade, and singer Marc Anthony warmed up the crowd for the first lady in Miami.
"When you're in the voting booth, do a gut check. Who understand the challenges and choices you face? And who has a clear choice to lead 100 percent of our country forward," Union asked the crowd, referring to Mitt Romney's criticism of the 47 percent of Americans who pay no income tax.
Earlier in the day, singer-songwriter Stevie Wonder, whose song "Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours" has been a staple of Obama campaign events, fired up a crowd of 4,000 supporters in a former convention center in downtown Jacksonville, the first stop on the Florida tour.
Michelle Obama told the crowd there that every vote counts in the state that determined the 2000 presidential election. Some polls and analysts have suggested that this year's election could produce a similar razor-thin margin for whichever candidate wins.
She told the gathering, "You need to own that and get out and vote."