Michelle Obama campaigns for Barbara Boxer in L.A.
First Lady Michelle Obama lent her considerable star power to Sen. Barbara Boxer on Tuesday, telling hundreds of supporters in the Mid-Wilshire area that the three-term senator was a critical advocate for the middle class and the Democratic agenda in Washington, D.C.
Obama described Boxer as passionately supportive of members of the U.S. military and their families, as well as small businesses.
“As you all know, when it comes to being a champion for California’s families, there is no one who fights harder, there is no one who cares more deeply than our friend Barbara Boxer,” Obama told more than 1,000 people at the Wilshire Ebell Theater. “She’s been working day and night to create jobs here in California, construction jobs, clean energy jobs, good jobs that pay good wages, that folks can raise a family on.”
“I am so proud, so very proud to be here supporting her tonight,” Obama said.
Boxer delivered a softer speech than usual, in keeping with the less partisan nature of Obama’s events and, perhaps, because her Republican opponent, Carly Fiorina, had been hospitalized earlier Tuesday. Boxer spoke in general terms about the positions of her “opponents” or the “other side” — never criticizing Fiorina by name.
Early in her speech she also alluded to the news that Fiorina, a breast cancer survivor, was being treated for an infection related to her reconstructive surgery earlier this summer.
“I wanted to wish her a speedy recovery,” Boxer said, adding to polite applause that Fiorina’s aides said she would be back on the campaign trail soon. “That’s good news for all of us.”
In broad terms, the three-term senator railed against the influx of millions of dollars from outside groups vying to defeat her. And she told the predominantly female audience that the election presented a stark choice. In an allusion to Fiorina’s position on abortion, she said the election could jeopardize protections for women under the landmark Roe vs. Wade abortion-rights court decision.
“Those on the other side have a very different message, and you know that it’s to take our country back to the same old Bush economic policies, the same old Wall Street mentality, the gambling, that transformed a thriving economy,” Boxer said. “We just can’t go back and that’s what this election is all about.”
Obama’s appearance in Los Angeles with Jill Biden, the wife of Vice President Joe Biden, was part of a West Coast trip that included stops in Washington state for Sen. Patty Murray, a fundraiser in San Francisco with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to benefit Democrats and an appearance Tuesday at the annual Women’s Conference in Long Beach, hosted by California First Lady Maria Shriver.
In the final stretch, the White House has offered a critical boost to Boxer’s coffers. Both President Obama and Vice President Biden have held fundraisers on Boxer’s behalf in the last week, after multiple events earlier this year. Guests contributed $100 each to attend Tuesday night’s event, which was expected to raise $150,000. Michelle Obama will stay in town overnight for a luncheon for Boxer on Wednesday at a private home on the Westside.
While President Obama has ratcheted up his criticism of Republicans in recent weeks, routinely accusing them of standing by as his administration tries to pull the economy out of the ditch, his wife steered away from overtly partisan remarks, instead advocating for her husband’s priorities.
She recounted the administration’s accomplishments, including tax cuts for the middle class and small businesses, healthcare legislation, and loans and grants to boost the nation’s competitiveness in the clean energy sector.
But she also acknowledged voters’ anxieties about the economy and echoed her husband’s plea to voters to be patient.
“I know that a lot of folks are still hurting, and I know that for a lot of folks change hasn’t come fast enough,” Obama said. “And trust me it hasn’t come fast enough for Barack either, not when so many folks still are looking for work, no, it hasn’t come fast enough, not when folks are struggling to pay the bills and worrying about providing for their kids.”
“But I think that many of us came into this expecting to see all the change that we talked about happen all at once, right away, the minute Barack set foot in the Oval Office,” she said. “But the truth is it is going to take a lot longer to dig ourselves out of this hole than any of us would like. The truth is, this is the hard part of change.”
She encouraged supporters to get on the phones and go door to door and shake up voters who are planning to “sit this one out”:
“There is too much at stake, too much, not just for our future, but for our children’s future... and we have come much too far … to turn back,” she said.
At the women’s conference in Long Beach earlier Tuesday, Obama sought to draw attention to the struggles of military spouses, saying that their stories remain “invisible” to too many Americans
“Their loved ones protect every single one of us. Their service keeps our entire country safe,” Obama said. “So their sacrifice should be our sacrifice. Supporting them is our solemn obligation as a grateful nation.”
The first lady said she was honoring a campaign pledge to be a voice for military spouses. She said she became more aware of the pressures on military families during the 2008 presidential campaign and related tales of extended deployments, missed birthdays and the challenges of moving from base to base every few years.
“As women, we know how to reach out. We know how to support each other,” she said. “And the question is, what can we as women do to support our military spouses? How can we as a nation give back to these families who’ve given so much?”
Obama detailed her husband’s efforts to bolster support and counseling programs and increase funding for housing, child care and career development services, in addition to extending the Family and Medical Leave Act to more military families and caregivers. But she called on audience members to help military spouses in their own communities.
“The truth is that there is so much more that each of us can do — and should do — right in our own communities,” Obama said. “Because it’s not enough just to be proud. It’s not enough just to feel grateful. It’s time for each of us to act. It’s time for each of us to be an architect of change for these families in whatever way that we can.”
Times staff writer Michael Mishak contributed to this report.