Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama try to boost turnout in hard-fought North Carolina

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, accompanied by first lady Michelle Obama, greet supporters during a campaign rally in Winston-Salem, N.C., Thursday, Oct. 27, 2016.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, accompanied by first lady Michelle Obama, greet supporters during a campaign rally in Winston-Salem, N.C., Thursday, Oct. 27, 2016. AP

At their first joint campaign appearance, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and first lady Michelle Obama rallied supporters Thursday with an appeal tailored to women and young voters.

Clinton and Obama both spoke to the 10,500 people who nearly filled Lawrence Joel Coliseum.

Both implicitly criticized Republican Donald Trump, who has been accused of inappropriate sexual advances by 11 women.

“I wish I didn’t have to say this,” Clinton said, “but indeed dignity and respect for women and girls is also on the ballot this election.”

But it was Obama who seemed to have the star power and evoked the loudest ovation.

Without mentioning Trump by name, she described Clinton as the candidate who would build bridges, not walls, and who would be the best influence on children and future generations.

“As Hillary said, the stakes in this election could not be more clear,” Obama said. “This election is about something much bigger. This is about our children…. With every action we take, with every word we utter, we think about the millions of children watching us….. And why every day we try to be the kind of politicians that children deserve.”

Obama urged voters to choose somebody “who takes this job seriously and who has ... the maturity to do the job, someone who’s steady.”

Obama praised Clinton’s experience as a lawyer, first lady, senator and secretary of state.

“We have never had a more qualified and prepared candidate for president than our friend Hillary Clinton,” said Obama, who called Clinton “my girl.”

“Hillary doesn’t play,” said Obama. She painted Trump’s message as one of “hopelessness...a vision of a country that is weak and divided, a country in chaos, where other citizens are a threat.”

“This is truly an unprecedented election, and that’s why I’m out here,” said Obama. She said the president should have a steady disposition and be “someone we can trust with the nuclear codes, because we want to go to sleep at night knowing our kids and our country are safe.”

Replying for the N.C. Republican Party, Sen. Joyce Krawiec of Winston-Salem hit Clinton’s support of the Affordable Care Act.

“Hillary Clinton’s campaign stop comes as North Carolinians continue to grapple with the news that healthcare premiums will skyrocket by double-digits next year. Democrats like Hillary Clinton, Deborah Ross and Roy Cooper refuse to admit the harmful consequences of Obamacare, but they can’t run from their ownership and support of the disastrous law,” she said in a statement.

The candidates have been making frequent visits to North Carolina, a key swing state. With early voting already well underway, both parties are trying to rally their supporters to get to the polls.

Republican Donald Trump spoke in Charlotte on Wednesday, promising a “new deal for black America” in a speech at Spirit Square, touting stronger crime-fighting and immigration control.

Clinton most recently visited North Carolina on Sunday, with a rally promoting early voting at UNC Charlotte. Other recent headliners have included vice presidential candidates Tim Kaine and Mike Pence, along with surrogates such as Bill Clinton, Elizabeth Warren and Dr. Ben Carson. Bill Clinton campaigns in Charlotte Sunday. Michelle Obama led a Clinton rally Oct. 4 at the Charlotte Convention Center.

On Thursday, Obama also stressed the importance of early voting and turnout in what’s likely to be a close contest in North Carolina, and criticized Trump for his repeated assertion that the election will be rigged or stolen by a global cabal.

“When you hear folks talking about a global conspiracy and saying this election is rigged, understand they are trying to get you to stay home,” said Obama. “They are trying to take away your hope.”

And she again emphasized Obama’s slim margin of victory in North Carolina in the 2008 presidential race against Sen. John McCain.

“Barack won North Carolina by about 14,000 votes,” she said. “The difference between winning and losing this state was a little over two votes per precinct...We have to turn people out.”

In 2012, Obama lost the state to Romney by about 17 votes per precinct, Obama said.

“How many of y’all have voted?” Ross, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, asked the crowd at Thursday’s rally. When the crowd cheered, she encouraged them to register and vote early. “That’s not enough...The polls are razor-thin, and your votes are going to determine all these races up and down the ballot.”

She also criticized Trump, and brought up the third presidential debate, when he called Clinton, “Such a nasty woman.”

“He forgot that nasty women vote,” said Ross. A woman at the rally had a purse with the words “Nasty Woman” painted on it.

Clinton said the “bullying” rhetoric of the election is having a negative impact on children.

“They’re scared if they’re Muslim, or if they have a disability,” she said. “Let’s work together, and let’s be hopeful, and optimistic, and unified in the face of division and hate.”

Joseph Dickson brought his 11-year-old daughter Ellie down from Blowing Rock to see Clinton and Obama.

“It was very important for me for her to have strong role models,” he said.

Ellie Dickson agreed.

“It was absolutely amazing to see the first lady,” she said. “It made me really believe in myself, that I can do anything.”

Jim Morrill: 704-358-5059, @jimmorrill