First Lady Michelle Obama rallies support for Udall in Denver


First Lady Michelle Obama rallies supporters on behalf of Democratic Sen. Mark Udall at Denver’s Exdo Event Center Thursday.

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DENVER -- Following Secretary Hillary Clinton's impassioned plea to Colorado women earlier this week, First Lady Michelle Obama urged a large crowd here Thursday to support Democratic Sen. Mark Udall and offered a hearty defense of her husband's first six years in office.

Obama, still an asset on the campaign trail in 2014 while vulnerable Democrats continue to shun the president himself, addressed a crowd of 1,500 people inside the Exdo Events Center in the Larimer North neighborhood.

"Mark is practical and tenacious," Obama said. "He has never gotten caught up in the bickering and partisanship in Washington. He reaches across the aisle to find solutions."

Her visit marks the latest in a string of appearances from high-profile Democratic surrogates who have attracted large crowds and serious media attention in the final weeks of a race that could swing the balance of power in Washington, DC.

Udall's challenger, Republican Congressman Cory Gardner, is taking a different tack, holding a few events this week before smaller crowds mostly outside the metro area; he will attend four victory rallies around central Denver on Saturday along with GOP gubernatorial nominee Bob Beauprez.

Gardner has focused much of his campaign on tying Udall to Obama, repeating his primary talking point that he's voted with the president 99 percent of the time, at every opportunity.

After a boilerplate recitation of the campaign's main talking points, Obama sought to evoke some nostalgia from the Democratic crowd for its historic 2008 race and the opportunity that elections offer.

"Sometimes when things get better, we forget how bad things were," she said. "We were in full-blown crisis mode. Our economy was on the brink of collapse. Businesses were losing 800,000 jobs a month."

Asserting that she is proud of her husband, Obama went on to list a number of statistics showing the country's economic turnaround, including 54 straight months of job growth and the "millions of Americans [who] have finally gotten health insurance.

"We have accomplished so much of that change we were talking about," she said. "And if we're want to finish what we started, we have got to reelect Mark Udall as your senator."

Obama also framed her husband's historic election as president as the result of high voter turnout, a reminder of the importance of casting ballots and convincing friends and neighbors to show up.

"Barack won because record numbers of women and minorities showed up to vote," she said. "And when the midterms came along, too many of our people tuned out. When we tune out, they win.

Udall, before introducing Obama as "the fittest First Lady in history," also encouraged supporters to work hard on his behalf over the final two weeks of the election.

"We've got 12 days left," he said. "And I want six more years."

Before the First Lady took the stage, Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, who is chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, told the crowd Obama was here because the race is so important, drawing a comparison to his own campaign four years ago when he eked out a surprising win over Republican Ken Buck.

"Every single public poll said I would not win that race," Bennet said. "Don't listen to the polls. Just vote!"

Bennet also returned to a riff on Gardner and Republicans generally.

"They talk about wanting to take this country back," he said. "But to where? What century?"

Congresswoman Diana DeGette, D-Denver, also addressed the crowd and reminded the crowd about Gardner's support for federal personhood legislation and his past support for a statewide personhood initiative.

"Mark Udall has always been an unwavering supporter of a woman's right to choose," DeGette said.

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