DENVER — You could have mistaken Thursday morning’s round-the-block line outside the Exdo Events Center for a weekend night, since the venue shares real estate with one of the city’s largest LGBTQ clubs, Tracks. The similarities bore out within, where a live band played Motown standards and jazzed-up Top 40 for a crowd of 1,500 that filtered through security screenings and milled around for an hour awaiting the nation’s most popular Obama.
Introduced by U.S. Sen. Mark Udall as “the fittest first lady in U.S. history,” Michelle Obama took the stage with a message she has been touting nationwide: Get out the vote.
“Barack Obama is president because a bunch of people who never voted before showed up in 2008 and 2012,” Obama said. “Barack won because record numbers of women, minorities and young people showed up to vote. Remember that.”
The midterm campaign to re-elect Udall, a Democrat who’s running neck-and-neck in the race for his seat with U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner, is already deploying a ground game four times larger than any other in state history — including U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet’s game-changing efforts in 2010.
Even so, Obama urged the crowd — many of whom began volunteering for Democrats supporting Barack Obama in presidential elections — to do anything but rest on their laurels.
“These midterm races will be even harder and even closer,” the first lady said. “The stakes simply could not be higher.”
In outlining the stakes, Michelle Obama hit on many of the same points as Hillary Clinton, the former first lady and secretary of state who was in town two days earlier stumping for Colorado Democrats.
Both women emphasized women’s reproductive rights but also highlighted raising the minimum wage, equal pay for equal work, comprehensive immigration reform and reducing student-loan debt.
Obama concluded her speech by focusing this election on the next generation.
“These are our kids: kids who wake up early and take the long route to school to avoid the gangs. These are our kids: kids who juggle after-school jobs to support their family, stay up late to finish their homework. These are our kids: kids whose parents don’t speak a word of English but who are fighting every day to realize their dream of a better life. This is what’s at stake. These kids have every reason to give up, but they are so hungry to succeed, they are so desperate to lift themselves up, and that’s what we have to remember. We’re here today because of them, because if those kids don’t give up, then neither will we.
“So between now and Nov. 4, we need to be energized for them, we need to be inspired for them, we need to pour everything we have into this election so they can have the opportunities they need to build the futures they deserve.”
Outside the event center, Marisol Chavez and Jessica Alicdan waited for a Lyft, each holding a “Latinas for Udall” sign.
“She kind of made me teary-eyed,” Chavez said of Obama’s speech. “As a first-generation student, everything she was talking about was true.”
“It brought back a lot of memories – of trying to get through school coming from a low-income community, a minority group as well,” added Alicdan.
Both women are in graduate school at the Colorado School of Public Health. They said the visit from the first lady inspired them to support Udall.
“It’s so important to have a strong leader in every state,” Chavez said, “someone who makes sure people have access to health care and to education.”
[photo by Tessa Cheek]