Gerry Broome, Associated Press
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Michelle Obama urged North Carolina college students on Tuesday to work hard for her husband, making sure they and their friends cast ballots as early voting begins this week in the battleground state.
The first lady reminded the roughly 5,700 students packing a basketball arena at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill that President Obama carried the state four years ago by just 14,000 votes, which she said broke down to just five votes per precinct. She challenged each student there to personally round up five votes to help re-elect the president.
She cast her own vote for her husband on Monday, sending an absentee ballot back home to Chicago.
"We're one vote closer," she told the energetic crowd.
The first lady spoke just hours before President Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney are scheduled to hold a televised debate in New York, previewing what will likely be some of the same points her husband will make to the country.
Whereas Republicans have claimed the president doesn't have a record to run on, Michelle Obama ticked off accomplishments from the last four years: getting out of Iraq, helping keep college loans affordable, putting health insurance within reach for millions of families, the death of Osama bin Laden at the hands of Navy SEALs and saving the U.S. auto industry.
"I could go on and on," she said. "He inherited an economy in rapid decline. Instead of pointing fingers, he got to work. ... Are we going to turn around and let everything we have fought for just slip away?"
The first lady held a similar get-out-the-vote rally last month in a gym at nearby North Carolina Central University in Durham. The Chapel Hill event marks the 12th time Mrs. Obama has visited the state since becoming first lady.
On Tuesday, she spoke near a large banner featuring the campaign slogan "Forward" printed in white letters over a field of light blue to match the walls of Carmichael Arena, home of the Tar Heels women's basketball team. President Obama used the same venue this spring for a speech to help build support for getting Congress to extend low-interest student loans.
Saying there was still much more that the president hoped to accomplish with four more years, the first lady echoed the campaign's buzz words from 2008.
"Change is hard. It takes patience and tenacity," she said. "Elections are about hope."
Follow AP writer Michael Biesecker at twitter.com/mbieseck
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