First lady Michelle Obama rallied an enthusiastic Charlotte audience for Democrat Hillary Clinton Tuesday – and even appealed to those less enthusiastic.
“When I hear folks saying they’re just not really feeling inspired this election, I really have to disagree,” Obama said. “Because right now we have an opportunity to elect one of the most qualified people who has ever endeavored to become president.…
“Remember, it’s not about voting for the perfect candidate – there is no such thing. Candidates happen to be human. And this election is about making a choice between two very different candidates.”
Obama spoke to 1,800 people at the Charlotte Convention Center, then headed to Raleigh for another rally.
Her visit came as Clinton’s campaign ramped up efforts to turn out the vote in North Carolina, especially among African-Americans.
An ad featuring the first lady began airing on black radio stations. Reggie Love, a former aide to President Barack Obama and Duke basketball standout, planned to campaign for Clinton at Johnson C. Smith University Wednesday.
Clinton herself was in Charlotte Sunday to visit a black church and meet privately with black leaders. And the president is scheduled to attend a student forum at Greensboro’s N.C. A&T State University on Oct. 11.
“It’s basically all hands on deck for mobilization and energizing,” said Michael Bitzer, a political scientist at Catawba College. “It is all about turnout and the ground game.”
African-Americans, who are strongly Democratic, made up 23 percent of the North Carolina electorate when Barack Obama was on the ballot in 2008 and 2012. In 1996 they accounted for just 18 percent. Analysts say Clinton needs the higher level to have a chance to beat Republican Donald Trump.
But last month a report published in The New York Times underscored the lack of enthusiasm for her among many young African-American voters. And Observer interviews with more than a dozen black voters revealed discomfort with Clinton, and far less enthusiasm than Obama inspired in becoming the first black president.
It was those voters Michelle Obama appeared to address Tuesday. She warned people not to cast a protest vote or sit home in frustration with their choices.
“Because here’s the truth,” she said. “Hillary Clinton or her opponent will be elected president this year. If you vote for some one other than Hillary, or if you don’t vote at all, then you’re helping elect her opponent. And the stakes are far too high to take that chance.”
State Republican spokeswoman Kara Carter said Clinton is trying unsuccessfully to appeal to the coalition that twice elected Barack Obama.
“Unfortunately for the Clinton campaign, sending celebrities and now Michelle Obama to North Carolina only highlights the fact that she’s failed to inspire enthusiasm from the young voters she desperately needs to turn out,” Carter said.
Describing Trump as unfit for the job, Michelle Obama took a shot at the man who long questioned her husband’s place of birth.
“People asked whether Barack was born in this country,” she said. “These questions were hurtful and deceitful, designed to undermine his presidency. They can’t be blamed on others and swept under rug with an insincere sentence at a press conference.”
She criticized Trump’s penchant for early-morning tweets.
“A president just can’t pop off or lash out irrationally,” she said. “We can all agree someone who is roaming around tweeting at 3 a.m. shouldn’t have fingers on nuclear codes.”
Obama said the long presidential campaign doesn’t “change who you are, it reveals who you are.” She listed some of Trump’s more controversial statements, such as making fun of a reporter with a physical disability and criticizing the appearance of women.
By contrast, she said Clinton is the most experienced person ever to run for the presidency.
Polls show lead
On Tuesday, African-American supporters said they don’t think enthusiasm will be a problem.
“I’m not worried,” said Azivia Little, 61. “They’re going to realize it’s very important to side with the candidate who has your best interests.”
Rev. Dwayne Walker, pastor of Little Rock AME Zion Church, hosted Clinton in his sanctuary Sunday. There she offered support and a listening ear to a community hurting and angry following the Sept. 20 police shooting death of Keith Lamont Scott.
“People felt she was really able to connect with them and understand the plight of our people,” Walker said Tuesday. “People believe she understands … and if she doesn’t she’s trying to.”
An Elon University Poll Tuesday showed Clinton with a 5.5-point lead over Trump in North Carolina, compared with a virtual tie two weeks ago. A Quinnipiac Poll released Monday showed Clinton with 46 percent support in the state to Trump’s 43 percent. And a Bloomberg Politics N.C. Poll showed Clinton with 43 percent to Trump’s 42 percent, well with the margin of error.
Obama urged supporters to take nothing for granted.
She told supporters that her husband won the state by 14,000 votes in 2008, or two votes in each precinct. He lost in 2012 by the equivalent of 17 votes per precinct.
“Do you hear that? If they had gone the other way or stayed at home, Barack would have lost the state,” she said. “… Find a neighbor. Find a friend. You could win this.”