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Michelle Obama speaks of family struggles

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Michelle Obama in St. Paul
Michelle Obama urged supporters to get the vote out at a rally in St. Paul, Minn.
MPR Photo/Caroline Yang

Michelle Obama told a crowd of 2,200 gathered at the Mayo Civic Center that she and her husband both understand the difficulties people face because their families have experienced the same struggles.

      "It's not just about politics. These issues are personal. I know that's true for everyone here," Obama said.

Michelle Obama greets supporters
Michelle Obama greeted a crowd of supporters with Barack's message of hope at a rally in St. Paul, Minn.
MPR Photo/Caroline Yang

      In southern Minnesota and again in St. Paul later in the day, Obama spoke about how her father had multiple sclerosis but still got up to go to work without complaining. She also told the story of Barack Obama's mother, who lost her battle with ovarian cancer. Obama used the story to explain why she and her husband support a health care system that doesn't deny coverage for preexisting conditions.

      Obama also mentioned several economic concerns, including layoffs and higher grocery prices.

      "Don't we deserve leaders who get it?" Obama asked. "My husband, Barack Obama, gets it. He doesn't get it in a philosophical, theoretical way, he gets it because he's lived it."

      Obama spoke briefly about energy policy, investments in education and responsibly withdrawing troops from Iraq. The latter brought people to their feet to chant, "Obama! Obama!"

      At Macalester College in St. Paul, a crowd estimated by the fire marshal at about 4,500 listened as Obama exhorted them to do to their part to get her husband elected.

Al Franken greeted Obama supporters
Democratic Senatorial candidate Al Franken greeted people as they arrived at the Obama rally at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn.
MPR Photo/Caroline Yang

      "You've got to reach out to people in your lives who are undecided. Wake them up out of their dorms on Election Day - no matter what they did the night before," she told the mostly young audience on the college campus. "In Minnesota, you have same-day voting, same-day registration. So that means there is no excuse."

      Based on past elections, Obama is expected to run up large margins in left-leaning Minneapolis and St. Paul.

      Rochester is less predictable. After years as a GOP stronghold, the city has become swing territory. Jeff Blodgett, Obama's state director, said the area is key to continuing the state's 32-year streak of supporting Democrats for president.

      Despite recent polls showing Obama in the lead in Minnesota, Blodgett isn't ready to breathe easy.

      "They're obviously going for a win here," he said, noting McCain's heavy ad presence and two recent visits. "We have to treat this state as it is - a battleground state."

A young supporter holds an Obama sign
A young supporter grabs her own sign during a rally with Michelle Obama in St. Paul, Minn.
MPR Photo/Caroline Yang

      McCain's camp has put its emphasis on the Twin Cities suburbs, the communities on the suburban collar and the northeastern corner of the state. Todd Palin, husband of GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, plans a northern Minnesota swing on Thursday and Friday.

      Maya Jones, 24, of Rochester, said she was thrilled Obama and Democratic Rep. Tim Walz, who spoke beforehand, gave positive speeches.

      "I just liked the tone of it. They didn't trash the other candidate at all," Jones said. Walz faces Republican Brian Davis and the Independence Party's Greg Mikkelson for the southern Minnesota seat.

      Sharon Gates-Hull, 69, of Northfield, said she was impressed with how Obama told her and her husband's personal story.

      "She spoke from the heart," she said. "She's so real."

      Gates-Hull said she's been troubled in recent weeks by the state of the economy. She worked on and off at different jobs through the years and doesn't have a pension plan.

      "I might have to go back to work, and that's worrisome," Gates-Hull said.

      But she said she's confident Obama can both relate to and provide solutions for people like her. "I have a lot of hope," she said.

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             (Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)