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Oct 7, 2014 10:55 AM

Michelle Obama campaigning in Wisconsin, Illinois

The Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) First lady Michelle Obama was due back in Wisconsin on Tuesday to campaign again for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke, who is locked in a tight race with Republican Gov. Scott Walker in which both have been heavily courting women voters.

Obama has been keeping a busy schedule on the campaign trail, and was in Wisconsin stumping for Burke a little more than a week ago. She was to appear Tuesday at a downtown Madison theater not far from the University of Wisconsin campus before heading about 150 miles south to campaign at the University of Illinois at Chicago for Gov. Pat Quinn.

The first lady's stops in Wisconsin and Illinois come after she recently campaigned for gubernatorial candidates in Maine and Massachusetts. She was also scheduled to campaign for candidates in Michigan and Iowa this week.

Polls from May until last week showed the Wisconsin governor's race to be nearly tied. But the latest Marquette University Law School poll released on Oct. 1 showed Walker with a narrow 5-point advantage. The margin of error was 4.1 percentage points.

Voters at the Madison rally said they hoped Obama's appearance would energize Democrats to vote and register others.

"I think some Democrats are excited about the race, but there are a lot of people who are apathetic," said Linda Franklin, an unemployed Burke supporter from Madison.

The Marquette poll showed a large gender gap in the race, with Burke holding a 14-point advantage among women and Walker favored by men by 28-points.

Obama's visit is designed to capitalize on female support for Burke, "and there's nothing wrong with that," Franklin said.

Wisconsin Republican Party executive director Joe Fadness used the first lady's visit to try to link Burke with the president, saying they agree on "failed policies" that have "hurt Wisconsin families and taken us down the wrong path."

Meanwhile, Washington-based abortions-rights group Emily's List launched a television ad campaign Tuesday attacking Walker for his anti-abortion views. Walker, a potential 2016 GOP presidential candidate, responded with his own spot in which he defends his positions and says he is focused on protecting the health and safety of all women.

Walker is opposed to abortions even in cases of rape, incest and when the life of the mother is at risk.

Walker said on Monday that if women look at his record including cutting taxes and increasing funding for domestic abuse shelters that will carry more weight than "attack ads from groups outside the state of Wisconsin."

Burke is in the midst of her first statewide campaign. She is a former executive at Trek Bicycles, a company started by her father in Wisconsin in the 1970s. She also served nearly three years as state Commerce Department secretary under Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle, and was elected to the Madison school board in 2012.

Obama's appearance in Illinois comes after she appeared in a Quinn television ad released Monday where she notes Quinn's efforts to boost Illinois' minimum wage. Quinn faces a challenge from Republican Bruce Rauner.


Follow Scott Bauer on Twitter at https://twitter.com/sbauerAP


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