Michelle Obama Makes First Foray Into 2012 Campaign

05/19/2011 01:00 pm ET | Updated Jul 19, 2011

WASHINGTON — Michelle Obama made her first foray into the 2012 presidential campaign Thursday, telling donors that her husband needs them to "work like you have never worked before" so he can finish the job he started.

Though the first lady said President Barack Obama has accomplished much in almost 2 1/2 years, she told a Democratic Party women's group that there's a lot more to do, with a long and difficult campaign ahead.

Addressing the Democratic National Committee's Women's Leadership Forum's annual national issues conference, the first lady hit many of the same notes as the president has in his recent campaign speeches.

She talked about turning around an economy in decline, cutting taxes for the middle class, overhauling the health care and financial systems and providing more financial aid for college students. She mentioned repealing the ban on gay military service and bringing home troops from Iraq after the end of formal combat operations.

"He needs you to work like you have never worked before, people," she said.

Since part of her mission was to appeal to women, a core Democratic constituency, Mrs. Obama noted that the president had put two "brilliant" women on the Supreme Court and had made signing an equal pay law one of his first acts in the White House.

"I think that it's fair to say that we've seen some change and we should be proud of what we've accomplished," she told the more than 500 women in the audience. "But we should not be satisfied."

In 2008, Mrs. Obama overcame early reservations about Obama's decision to run for president and ended up becoming a popular stand-in for him on the campaign trail. On Thursday, she discussed her cynicism about that campaign and politics in general and said she'd work harder this time, too.

Mrs. Obama spoke last Sunday at a private fundraiser for younger Obama supporters in Atlanta, but Thursday's speech was her first before a large group during this campaign cycle.

Last fall, she made about a half-dozen appearances on behalf of Democratic Senate candidates campaigning for the midterm elections but has no formal campaign schedule for the year.

In her remarks Thursday, Mrs. Obama didn't mention any of the Republicans who are running or thinking about running against her husband. But implicit in the 20-minute speech was the sentiment that Obama is the one who will make the country a better place for their children and grandchildren.

"So I have one question for you. Are you in?" she said, riffing on the Obama campaign's re-election theme. "I hope that all of you are fired up. I hope that all of you are ready to go."

Proceeds from the conference were going to the Obama Victory Fund to be shared between the Democratic National Committee and Obama's re-election campaign.

Democratic officials declined to say how much money was raised, citing competitive reasons.

Obama addressed the gathering Thursday evening and highlighted what his administration has done to help women, from changes in health care coverage to resisting an attempt by congressional Republicans to cut federal funding for Planned Parenthood.

The president joked about being confused when told he'd be speaking to the forum.

"I address a women's leadership forum every night at dinner," he said, noting meals with his wife, daughters Malia and Sasha, and his mother-in-law. "It's just me and Bo" -- the family's dog -- "trying to get a word in edgewise."

Obama also attended a second fundraiser, a dinner for about 50 people at the Dupont Circle home of lawyer John Phillips. He is the husband of former administration official and network TV reporter Linda Douglass. She did not attend the fundraiser.

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