FAIRFAX, Virginia: First Lady Michelle Obama made her first campaign appearance for Democrat Hillary Clinton in the increasingly competitive presidential race at a Virginia university where she urged students to “work your hearts out” to register and get out the vote on Nov. 8.
Obama took aim at the youth vote that Clinton badly needs in a speech that drew cheers and applause from hundreds of students, many of them black or Hispanic, crowded into a campus building atrium at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.
“Let’s be clear. Elections are not just about who votes but about who doesn’t vote,” Obama said, addressing the Clinton campaign concern that many young people are eyeing third party candidates or just not enthusiastic about the election at all.
Meanwhile, Clinton reached out to another segment of needed voters, speaking in the morning to the Black Women’s Symposium in Washington, D.C.
Friday evening in Manhattan, Clinton taped an appearance on NBC’s “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” to be aired Monday.
Democrats see the first lady as one of their best surrogates — she had a 58 percent favorability rating in a July Gallup Poll — and they put her out on the Clinton campaign trail as Clinton’s lead has shrunk after a bout of pneumonia forced her to leave a 9/11 ceremony Sunday.
“It’s well known that Michelle Obama doesn’t like to campaign, so the fact that she’s doing it suggests the high importance that the Obama White House places on Clinton’s election,” said Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics.
Obama also sought in her appearance to help Clinton in the swing state of Virginia, where she leads narrowly in polls, and to reach potential young voters like Taylor Iobst to get them registered before the state’s Oct. 17 deadline.
Iobst, 21, a George Mason senior who is studying neuroscience, said she registered to vote Friday before she came out to see the first lady.
“Michelle Obama is an idol of mine,” Iobst said. About Clinton, she said, “If I’m going to vote, I think I will vote for her.”
At the college rally, Obama defended her husband’s record, knocked Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump without naming him, and lavished praise on Clinton.
“We need someone who will take this job seriously,” Obama said, adding that being president isn’t “like reality TV.” She said the country needs someone “steady and measured” at the White House, not just anyone who will just “pop off.”
In Washington, Clinton cited examples of black female pioneers and leaders in a speech to the Black Women’s Symposium at the Renaissance Washington, D.C. Downtown Hotel.
“Black women deserve more than a seat at the table,” Clinton said. “It’s past time you had a fair chance to run the meeting.”
In an advance clip of the Tonight Show released by NBC, host Fallon briefly donned a surgical mask and pumped sanitizer into his hand before interviewing Clinton — a comic nod to the bout of pneumonia that kept Clinton sidelined from the campaign trail for three days this week.
Fallon later turned more serious, asking her about the pressure to present a cheery front while also being somber when necessary.
“It’s especially tricky for women,” Clinton responded, noting that some Republicans criticized her for being too grave while discussing Iran and the Islamic State in an interview.
She said the Islamic State can’t be discussed lightly: “They’re a barbaric, evil group that we have to defeat and wipe out.”
Clinton called her handling of public perception, “a constant balancing act: how you keep the energy and the positive spirit while taking seriously what you need to.”