First Lady Michelle Obama speaks during a rally at the VFW Post 1503 in Dale… (Brendan Smialowski / AFP/Getty…)
DALE CITY, Va. -- Addressing Obama campaign volunteers in a swing suburb of a top battleground state, First Lady Michelle Obama delivered a pitch tailored to female voters, a group that strategists for both sides consider the crucial demographic in the fight for Virginia’s 13 electoral votes.
Obama spoke at length about her own family and also referred to military families, an important voter group in the state. She touted the benefits for women of the economic recovery, which has reduced unemployment in Virginia to the lowest level of the nation’s 20 most populous states.
“When so many women are breadwinners in our families,” she said, “women’s success in this economy is the key to families’ success.”
Using a teleprompter to deliver her remarks, she checked off a list of issues that, polls show, have special appeal for female voters, including education, equal pay for women and provisions in the new healthcare law, such as those that provide “contraception [and] prenatal care, at no extra cost.”
“Protecting women’s health is a mission that has nothing to do with politics,” Obama told the crowd of several hundred campaign volunteers and supporters at a VFW hall. “It’s about ensuring that women have the screenings we need to stay healthy and the healthcare we need when we are sick and it’s about ensuring that women can make basic health decisions for ourselves. Plain and simple.”
The last remark was as close as she came to touching on the issue of abortion, which was inflamed this year in Virginia when the Republican Legislature considered a measure that would have required women to obtain a transvaginal ultrasound before getting an abortion.
Lisa Collis, the wife of the state’s senior senator, Democrat Mark Warner, and co-chair of Virginia Women for Obama, who introduced Obama, alluded to the controversy in the most recent session of the state Legislature. Without going into detail, she said that it had pointed up the importance of “protecting our hard-won rights.”
It was the first campaign event in the outer suburbs of Washington by either the first lady or the president. Privately, Democrats in the state have expressed concern that the campaign had not sent either into the crucial swing counties of Prince William and Loudoun, which voted for Obama in 2008 but switched back to the GOP in the last three state elections. Prince William is now the largest Republican-run jurisdiction in the state.
Obama opened the overt campaign phase of his reelection drive last month in Richmond, the state capital, another battlefield in this battleground state.