LAS VEGAS (AP) — First lady Michelle Obama portrayed her husband as a fighter for the middle class, young adults, small businesses and immigrants during a stop in Las Vegas on Tuesday that highlighted how Democrats will campaign for the president in Nevada.
The first lady, whose visit to Las Vegas was part of a four-state campaign push across the West, said President Barack Obama’s health care law and efforts to pass immigration reform and help students pay for college demonstrate the values he learned as the son of a single mother.
She also pointed to her own humble upbringing, saying her father struggled to pay his bills on time and put her and her brother through college. The Obamas have talked up their student loans in recent weeks in a bid to win over the youth vote that helped carry his historic victory in 2008.
“Barack knows what it means when a family struggles,” his wife told the crowd of more than 400 supporters gathered at a Las Vegas nature preserve. “Those are the experience that have made him the man and the president he is today.”
She never mentioned Mitt Romney by name, but her speech seemed designed to show contrast from the Republican presidential candidate’s affluent upbringing and economic status.
Nevada is among several key battleground states in the West that could determine whether Obama wins a second term in the White House. The first lady also visited Colorado and Arizona on Monday and was scheduled to stop in New Mexico after leaving Nevada.
Obama won Nevada in 2008, but the state voted Republican in 2000 and 2004. The state is known for its close electoral races, with an electorate nearly evenly divided by Republican and Democratic voters. Romney easily won the Nevada GOP presidential caucuses in February.
The first lady made it clear on Tuesday that the campaign hopes to appeal to Nevada’s many struggling families ahead of November. The state tops the nation in unemployment and has been a leader in foreclosures and bankruptcies.
She called her husband a “phenomenal president” who has worked to provide children better schools, allow the elderly to “retire with dignity” and create jobs for millions of unemployed Americans. She also cited the health care law that guarantees coverage for those with pre-existing conditions and youth on their parents’ plan. The legality of the law is being reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court.
“We want to restore that basic middle class security,” she said. “Everyone should do their fair share, but play by the same rules.”
The first lady also touted her husband’s support for the DREAM Act, which would create a path to citizenship for some illegal immigrants who entered the country as children. Latinos make up 26 percent of Nevada’s population and they overwhelmingly voted for Obama in 2008.
State Sen. Ruben Kihuen, a popular Mexican-born lawmaker who has campaigned for Obama in the past, opened the event, calling the first lady “a very elegant woman.”
“We are in a make-it or break-it situation for the middle class here,” Kihuen said.
The crowd waved 2012 Obama campaign signs and chanted “four more years.” A video introducing the first lady showed the president playing with his two daughters in the White House, signing the health care legislation into law and announcing the end of the Iraq War. It also featured a popular clip of him singing Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together.”
“Yes, we did,” the first lady said upon walking on stage, alluding to her husband’s 2008 campaign promise: “yes, we can.” She wore a black, sleeveless sheath dress.
Michelle Obama also hosted a fundraiser in Las Vegas Tuesday morning, with plates costing $2,500 a head.