RALEIGH — First Lady Michelle Obama graced Reynolds Coliseum as the battleground for a different type of contest Tuesday, using North Carolina State University's basketball court as her platform to urge students to vote in the upcoming election.
In a red and green dress, she campaigned for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton for about 40 minutes, constantly harkening to her personal experience as a wife of a president and saying Clinton is vastly more qualified for the Oval Office than her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. She had spoke in Charlotte earlier in the day.
Obama's visit comes at a strategically opportune time. Today, the latest Elon University Poll was released and shows the former Secretary of State slightly ahead of the real estate tycoon by six percentage points in North Carolina. The First Lady repeatedly affirmed North Carolina’s importance as a pivotal swing state and called for the racially diverse crowd of around 6,000 people to cast their ballots in November.
“This election is about making a choice between two very different candidates with two very different visions,” Obama said. “If you want to elect Hillary Clinton like I do, we have to get out and vote and roll up our sleeves. Things are too close here.“
Obama methodically and playfully struck jabs at Trump, whom she did not mention by name. To a roaring laugh from the crowd, she quoted an excerpt from her 2008 DNC speech that was plagiarized by Melania Trump, joked about his previous reality TV shows and addressed his recent 3 a.m. tirade on Twitter.
But she also raised serious concerns about Trump, specifically mentioning last week's New York Times’ report about his controversial 1995 tax returns. Obama said since she has held close proximity to a president for eight years as First Lady, she understands what the Commander-in-Chief must endure daily, the types of stresses she believe Trump would crumble under.
Frequently referring to Trump’s temperament and questionable comments involving immigrants, Gold Star families and women, Obama said Trump would not change if he were president, making him unfit for the office.
Michelle Obama made a concerted effort to urge NCSU students to vote. Video produced by Paige Pauroso
“A president can not just ‘pop off’ and make rash decisions,” Obama said. “ A president chooses to do what is best for the country even if it doesn’t personally benefit them. At the end of the day, the presidency doesn’t change you — it reveals who you are.
"If a candidate traffics fear and lies on the campaign trail, that’s who that candidate is and that’s the type of president they will be.”
Contrastingly, Obama echoed why she felt Clinton was certified to be the president. Just as the First Family is transitioning from a life in the spotlight to becoming average civilians, Obama said the country is trekking into an area of uncertainty. Because Clinton has served as a U.S. senator and a former Secretary of State, Obama stated she is more than capable of fulfilling the position.
Striking down Trump’s claim of Clinton not having the stamina of being president, Obama used Clinton’s advice during the Osama Bin Laden raid and her negotiation of a cease-fire in Gaza as concrete examples of her consistency, persistence and toughness.
"We can’t afford to squander this opportunity," Obama said. “No one in our lifetime has had more exposure to the presidency than Hillary — not Barack [Obama], not Bill [Clinton] — and, yes, she happens to be a woman."
As expected, because she was on a college campus, Obama outlined why she felt Clinton appeals more to students in regards to debt. An NCSU junior opened for Obama and reminisced about how her parents scraped and clawed for the funds to send her to school. Throughout the afternoon, NCSU students asserted their presence with chants and hand gestures of "The Wolf Pack."
Obama said she felt “inspired” by what she saw in the crowd, and that young people have the opportunity to vote in “an election that will affect generations.”
“When I look out and see this, I am more hopeful about the future of our great nation,” Obama said. "The choice we make on Nov. 8 will determine if you can afford your college tuition. In this election, you have two choices — Hillary Clinton, or the alternative.”
Deborah Ross, a Democratic candidate for North Carolina senator, spoke before Obama and elaborated on the same themes as the First Lady. The Elon Poll showed Ross in a close race with Republican Sen. Richard Burr, but she said millennials had the chance to change that, especially because she said she would fight for college students harder than Burr would. When Barack Obama won North Carolina in 2008, he ruptured a 32-year tradition of the state voting Republican.
Michelle Obama said the election in 2008 was decided between two or three votes per precinct, so she pleaded for everyone to vote. She's not the only politician to say it. With the election being so tightly knit, Ross said it is imperative that college students participate in November.
“You all need to register to vote,” Ross said. “If [Democrats] keep the White House, take back the United States’ Senate, go through North Carolina and take back the governor’s mansion, I know we’ll be better for it."