Michelle Obama campaigns in Phoenix in push to turn Arizona blue

Michelle Obama speaks to a crowd in Phoenix, AZ, on October 20, 2016. (Photo by Sean Pepper/ Cronkite News)

PHOENIX – First Lady Michelle Obama campaigned Thursday as the Hillary Clinton campaign closer in Arizona, speaking of the power of hope to build human connections, show empathy for the strength of inclusiveness and acknowledge the hard work of Americans who struggle to improve their lives.

“We are always stronger together,” Obama said. “That is a country we want to raise our kids in.”

Much of her speech focused on unifying the nation and drawing contrasts between Clinton and her Republican opponent. Obama, who stuck to her trademark pattern of never naming Donald Trump, evoked him as candidate who doesn’t understand immigrants or other Americans who struggle to make a living.

Clinton has a comprehensive plan to raise the minimum wage, improve schools, implement free college tuition, and more, Obama said. “Her opponent has tweets.”

At one point, someone shouted, “Arizona’s going blue!” and the crowd of about 7,000 at the Phoenix Convention Center cheered.

Stepping onto Arizona soil 19 days before the Nov. 8 election, Obama was the third high-profile Democrat to visit the state this week in a fervent bid to turn a deeply red state blue.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders stumped in Flagstaff and Tucson on Tuesday for his former Democratic foe, and Chelsea Clinton spoke Wednesday about college affordability before a millennial-heavy crowd at Arizona State University in Tempe.

A Cronkite News/Arizona Republic/Morrison poll of registered voters shows Hillary Clinton had a five-point lead over Republican Donald Trump, with 20 percent of likely voters still undecided.

The last time Arizona residents voted for a Democrat was 20 years ago, when Bill Clinton was re-elected president.

Obama’s visit was the day after the final debate between Clinton and Trump, who has traveled six times to Arizona to court voters.

Arizona leaders for Trump, whose last visit was earlier this month in Prescott Valley, said Clinton has ignored Arizona voters since she visited in March and repeated Trump’s assertion she is a career politician.

“It’s no wonder Hillary is phoning it in with Arizona voters, given her support of open borders, increasing Syrian refugees by 550%, and her pay-to-play corruption scheme at the State Department, where she traded official access for million-dollar gifts to the Clinton Foundation and six-figure speaking fees for her husband,” Coalter Baker, communications director, said in a statement. “Arizona voters are tired of the same old Washington double-speak and back-room deals from career politicians like Hillary, and will vote for change in November.”

Anticipation of Obama’s visit hours before her speech as hundreds of people lined up in front of the convention center in downtown Phoenix hours before the Obama rally before making their way inside the center.

“I’m so excited to have the blessing of seeing our fabulous First lady and support Hillary Clinton,” Phoenix resident Jean Booker said.

Phoenix resident Clara Norman,78, came to the event with her grand daughter. “This is a once in a lifetime deal, to see her in person,” Norman said.

Granddaughter Elizabeth Norman, 28, took the day off work and brought her two sons to see Obama because “it’s a part of history.”

Tucson resident Melissa Garcia said after the speech her main takeaway was
“We are stronger together and that America is already great.”

Obama’s final remarks were a call to action.

“Don’t just tweet about my speech. If you like it, go vote,” Obama said.