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Oct 7, 2014 2:23 PM

Michelle Obama rallies young voters in Wisconsin

The Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) First lady Michelle Obama rallied young voters Tuesday in Wisconsin's race for governor, saying if they show up to vote Republican Gov. Scott Walker can be defeated.

Obama, standing in front of a stage full of college students, spoke at a rally near the University of Wisconsin campus before heading south to rally for Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

The first lady said she returned to Wisconsin just eight days after another rally for Democrat Mary Burke in Milwaukee because she wanted to tailor her message to young voters. Obama said they should vote for Burke because she will fight to make college more affordable, raise the minimum wage, ensure women receive equal pay to men, and protect abortion rights.

"If women and minorities and young people show up, Mary wins," Obama said to applause from the crowd of about 1,100. "Mary wins."

Burke is locked in a tight race with Walker, a potential 2016 Republican candidate for governor. A Marquette University Law School poll released Oct. 1 showed Walker with a narrow 5-point advantage. The margin of error was 4.1 percentage points.

"We know that this is going to be a tight race and every single vote is going to matter," Burke said at the rally.

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."

The president has yet to campaign with Burke, but he still plans to do that before the end of October, said Burke's spokesman Joe Zepecki.

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.

Obama has set aside her well-known dislike of politics to campaign at least two days a week for Democratic Senate and gubernatorial candidates. She attended a Boston rally for gubernatorial candidate Martha Coakley last week and will be in Michigan later this month to help Senate candidate Gary Peters and gubernatorial candidate Mark Schauer.

Democrats have been seeking her help, even as they avoid appearances with her husband, whose job approval rating has sunk to the low 40s. But the first lady is viewed positively by 62 percent of the public, according to the most recent Pew Research Center survey.


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


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