DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — With her husband tied up much of the week managing the response to Superstorm Sandy, first lady Michelle Obama arrived in Florida Thursday to speak to his supporters in Jacksonville, Daytona Beach and Miami.

She hammered at the importance of volunteers working to finish the final five days of the campaign strongly with ramped up get out the vote efforts.

She told the packed crowd inside a packed convention hall at Daytona Beach’s Ocean Center that their continued commitment down the stretch could again help turn the tide in a state that saw President Barack Obama win by about 236,000 votes in 2008. Obama said that margin averaged to 36 votes per precinct in Florida, and added that “this room alone could make the difference.”

“It can be the difference in us waking up and asking ourselves ‘Could we have done more?’ or waking up and feeling the promise of four more years,” she said.

Early voting is under way across the state and the first lady spent each stop trying to firm up President Obama’s message about what he believes is at stake for Florida voters going into next week’s election. Vans were parked outside convention centers in both Jacksonville and Daytona, ready to take voters to early voting stations.

The president cancelled his appearance in Orlando on Monday as Sandy prepared to make landfall and has since been using surrogates, including President Bill Clinton, to keep a presence in a state that is expected to play a huge role in whether he wins a second term.

It’s why the first lady spent the majority of her speeches urging supporters to use early voting and to implore their friends and neighbors to do the same. This week officials said 2 million Floridians and 20 million people nationwide had already voted early either in-person or by absentee ballot.

“We’ve got a plan and it involves you,” she said. “You’re at the core of this plan … The thing about early voting is life happens. Election Day is just one day.”

Michelle Obama also underlined a major part of the president’s closing argument: that another term in office would mean getting the country’s economy back on track.

“While he’s proud of what we’ve achieved together, my husband is nowhere near satisfied,” she said. “Slowly, but surely we’ve been pulling ourselves out of that hole we started in.”

Singer Stevie Wonder warmed up the crowd of 4,000 supporters in a former convention center in downtown Jacksonville, the first stop on the Florida tour.

Obama told the crowd there that every vote counted in the state that determined the 2000 presidential election. Some polls and prognosticators have suggested that this year’s election could produce a similar razor-thin margin for whichever candidate wins.

“You need to own that and get out and vote,” she said.

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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