A crowd crammed into the covered facility at the Loudoun County Fairgrounds to hear First Lady Michelle Obama speak Tuesday evening, just after recent polls showed her husband, President Barack Obama, slipping in his bid for re-election.
But Michelle Obama said people in the crowd, or voters they talk to, just may be the edge needed to push her husband back into office.
“This election will be even closer than the last one. It will all come down to a few key battleground states like right here in Virginia,” she said. “A few of you right her today could swing an entire precinct for Obama.”
The first lady said now is not the time to change directions on economic policies, pointing to positive job growth and an unemployment figure that dropped below 8 percent for the first time since Obama took office. She pointed to Osama bin Laden’s death, the end of the Iraq war and that the Afghanistan war is winding down. She also praised the end of military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on sexual orientation.
“We are steadily moving this country forward and making real change. Are we going to turn around and go back to the same policies?” she asked. “In America, we always move forward. We always have. We cannot turn back now. We have come so far, but we have so much more work to do.”
When the First Lady took the stage, she said Barack Obama understood the struggles families are experiencing, having watched his mother steadily move on after being passed over for promotions “simply because she was a woman.”
“With Barack I felt a real connection because in his story I saw much of my own,” Michelle Obama said, explaining that her father saved and sacrificed “so one day we could have opportunities.”
The first lady said she and Barack believe because of the opportunities in America “none of us got where we are on our own,” naming a range of support “from teachers inspired us to the janitors that keep the schools clean.
“We believe in an America where every child, no matter where they were born or how much money their parents have … have good schools. We believe in an America where no one goes broke because someone gets sick,” the First Lady said. “He believes that in America teachers and firefighters shouldn’t pay more taxes than millionaires and billionaires.”
Her words touched those in the audience.
“I thought it was wonderful,” Leesburg resident Joanne Saylor said about Obama’s speech. “She’s such a dynamic person.”
Saylor, whose husband has brain cancer, said she’s a big fan of the Affordable Health Care Act because she’s more certain coverage will be there for him.
Ann Holton — wife of Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate Tim Kaine and daughter of Linwood Holton, the former Republican governor of Virginia — decried to the audience the “false negative ads” funded by outside groups in the state and recalled moves in the past year at the state and federal level to curtail abortion.
“The efforts of some in Richmond and some in Washington to come between a woman and her doctor … have made it clear how much is at stake,” Holton said, noting how close this year’s election would be.
Dana Monteaux, who lives in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, introduced Obama. She and her husband had great jobs with good insurance when he was struck with the very disease that struck his father and grandfather. Now she’s a full-time caregiver for her husband, who is paralyzed and has lost his vision. Monteaux said her spouse has suffered a dozen or more strokes and undergone multiple surgeries. She decided to speak because she believes Obama is looking out for people like her.
“I’m here today because I know President Obama knows what families like ours are going through,” she said. “We are part of that 47 percent," she said, referring to a speech Romney gave earlier this year, during which he said 47 percent of the country feels entitled to housing, food and health care.
President Obama has been widely criticized for his performance in the first debate against Romney, in part because he failed to call Romney out on the 47 percent remark.
“Frankly, I though Romney was arrogant and kind of a bully and ran over the moderator,” said Kathy Russo, an Arizona resident whose daughter lives in Loudoun County. Russo saw the president when he spoke in Leesburg earlier this year.
She said she felt Romney abandoned his conservative skin during the debate to gain support from moderate voters, and has been unsteady on several issues.
“Who know what he believes? I don’t … Romney scares me,” Russo said, referring to his skills on foreign policy. She questioned his bravado on military talk despite having not served. “Yet they want to commit all of these young people to war. They just don’t get it.”