September 5, 2012 at 7:44 pm EDT | by Chris Johnson
DNC 2012: First lady urges LGBT supporters to step up campaign efforts

First lady Michelle Obama addresses the Democratic National Convention (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

First lady Michelle Obama encouraged LGBT supporters on Wednesday to do all they can — even packing up to travel to battleground states — to get friends to go to the polls on Election Day to help her husband in the increasingly tight race for the White House.

Michelle Obama spoke to LGBT attendees of the Democratic National Convention at a luncheon hosted by the Human Rights Campaign and the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund at the Marriott City Center. According to her prepared remarks, she warned the 2012 presidential election will be “even closer” than the previous one.

“And quite frankly, all of these elections are close,” Michelle Obama said. “Since I have been an adult paying attention to this stuff, they’re always close. But in the end, this election, like many, could come down to that last few thousand votes in a single battleground state.”

The first lady recalled that in 2008 her husband won Florida by 236,000 votes — which she said broke down to 36 votes per precinct — and North Carolina by 14,000 votes — which said broke down to five votes per precinct.

Warning attendees at the luncheon that they don’t want to wake up the day after the election wondering if they could have done more, Michelle Obama encouraged them to travel to battleground states to help in the presidential race and to remind friends to donate and go to the polls.

The first lady called on attendees to find 36 votes that would match the margin of victory for each of the Florida precincts in 2008, then “get five more, and then get five more, and again and again” until Election Day.

“If you do not live in a battleground state, get to one,” Michelle Obama said. “Get your suitcase, pack it up, get a car, do something, find that neighbor — get to a battleground state.  If you can afford it, write a check — and if you haven’t maxed out, max out. Max out.”

Michelle Obama didn’t devote a large portion of her speech to convincing the LGBT crowd why her husband deserved their support. But she did tick off a few accomplishments: such as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal, refusing to defend the Defense of Marriage Act and “speaking out for the rights of all Americans to be able to do what Barack and I did and marry the love of our lives.”

“And that’s why all of you are here today, because you know that all of that and so much more is at stake in this election,” Michelle Obama said. “We can’t take anything for granted because it’s all still on the line.  And I know you’re here today because you believe, like I believe, that our president, my husband, he’s done an extraordinary job.”

The first lady also invoked her label as “mom-in-chief” — which she called herself during her speech the previous night on the floor of the Democratic convention. After saying she’s putting on her “serious-first-lady face,” an audience member said it was, “Your mom face.” Michelle Obama replied, “My mom face, that’s right. That’s it. You heard me, Sasha.”

According to pool reports, about 600 people attended the event, including notables such as Democratic National Committee Treasurer Andy Tobias, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, lesbian New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force and U.S. House candidate Mark Pocan.

Prior to the first lady’s remarks, Democratic National Convention Chair and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa took the stage to deliver remarks as part of the program, saying he’s proud the Democratic platform supports “every American’s right for the freedom to marry.”

Introducing Michelle Obama was Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin, who praised Michelle Obama for “her clear and much-needed message to policymakers and youth alike that bullying is not something that we have to accept in this country.”

Jeremy Hooper, editor of the gay blog “Good as You,” was among those in attendance at the luncheon and told the Washington Blade afterward he was struck by four words Michelle Obama said after talking about her husband’s LGBT accomplishments and commitment to equality: “And he always will.”

“I think that’s notable, considering where the president was versus where he now is,” Hooper said. “The message used to be ‘stick with me and I might get to where you want me to be.’ Now the message is that this administration is with us without fail or end date.”

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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