Michelle Obama Reaches Out to Hillary Constituency: Women

By Fred Lucas | July 7, 2008 | 8:06 PM EDT

Washington (CNSNews.com) - Michelle Obama on Friday helped her husband reach out to a key group of voters who eluded him during the primary season: women.

Speaking to an overwhelmingly female crowd of more than 1,000 Friday, Mrs. Obama said she and her husband could relate to the concerns of working families more than other politicians.

"When will our leaders not only support but champion the cause of working families?" asked the candidate's wife.

Michelle Obama, having come under some fire in the past for saying that "for the first time," she was proud of America because her husband was doing well in the presidential race, has taken a higher profile in the campaign in recent days.

"I have always been and probably will always be in some way shape or form a working mom," she said to laughter from the crowd on Friday.

"I used to get up in the morning and go to an office. Now I get up and go to a plane," she stated. "My kids still don't care where I am. They just know both parents work in their household, and as long as we're back for bedtime, they could care less."

The scene was the National Partnership for Women & Families (NPWF) annual luncheon. The NPWF is a liberal non-profit group that advocates pay equity for women, expanding the family and medical leave law, and extending the rights of workers to sue their employer.

It opposed the nominations of John Roberts and Samuel Alito to the U.S. Supreme Court, as well as other Bush judicial nominees.

Women were an important voting bloc for New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, who came closer than any woman in history to capturing the presidential nomination of a major party before she conceded the race to Obama.

In the crucial New Hampshire primary on Jan. 8, which followed Clinton's loss to Obama in Iowa, Clinton took 46 percent of the female vote while squeaking to a 39 percent to 37 percent win over Obama in a field that still included former Sen. John Edwards (N.C.) and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson.

In the March 4 Democratic primary held in the important swing state of Ohio, Clinton won 57 percent of the female vote to Obama's 41 percent, while winning the primary itself, 54 percent to 44 percent.

As recently as June 3, in the South Dakota primary, Clinton defeated Obama 57 percent to 43 percent among women, while winning the primary, 55 percent to 45 percent.

Michelle Obama's speech to the NPWF came at a time when -- although polls show Obama leading Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) nationally -- one in five Clinton supporters say they will vote for the Republican nominee in the fall.

"We can work together to make a more mom- and family-friendly nation, and that's why the partnership is so important," Michelle Obama said in praising the organization.

"It's time for the leaders of this country to fight for the causes of working families every single day, whether it's extending family and medical leave, pay equity or pushing to make sure that finally, finally, we have a nation where basic health care is not a privilege but is a fundamental right," she stated.

Michelle Obama got a warm reception, with a standing ovation lasting about 40 seconds for a speech that ran only about seven minutes.

She was followed by Gov. Deval Patrick (D-Mass.), who urged liberals to unite during the election season ahead.

"Many of you have come to the end of the primary with deep frustrations," Patrick said. "Whether you mourned one primary campaign or celebrate another, our cause is unfulfilled, and our national community is unrepaired."

Patrick cited numerous policy debates including those over the war in Iraq, global warming, education, the Bush tax cuts and the response to Hurricane Katrina that haven't ended even though the Democratic primary season has.

"Nothing ended this month, and nothing will unless we come together," Duvall said. "Coming together is our responsibility. Not Barack Obama's. Not Hillary Clinton's. The nominee will require each one of us to reach across our differences to seize our common aspirations."

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