Michelle Obama revs up Democratic Party faithful in Connecticut

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — First lady Michelle Obama revved up the Democratic Party faithful in Connecticut on Thursday, urging voters to help re-elect Gov. Dannel Malloy and calling him an "instrumental partner" to her husband.

More than 2,400 people showed up at the New Haven high school to see Mrs. Obama, who was in Rhode Island earlier Thursday to campaign for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gina Raimondo. Many in Connecticut waited hours in a line that stretched a couple of blocks to catch a glimpse of her.

She was treated to a rock star reception of screams and cheers when she and Malloy appeared on stage, and she surprised about 800 people in an overflow auditorium who expected to watch the rally on a television.

"Let me tell you, the excitement and energy that's here just in the overflow room, I think, is an excellent indication of what New Haven, what the state of Connecticut can do on the 4th to re-elect Gov. Malloy," Mrs. Obama said, praising the one-term governor for his support of stronger gun laws, a higher minimum wage, mandatory paid sick leave and increased funding for public education.

Obama said Malloy "has been an instrumental partner to my husband," who was scheduled to headline a rally for Malloy and state Democrats on Sunday in Bridgeport.

Malloy is in a close rematch with his 2010 opponent, Republican Tom Foley. A Quinnipiac University poll released this week shows the two in a dead heat.

As in 2010, Democrats are hoping presidential visits will help generate enthusiasm among voters, especially those living in cities. President Barack Obama's late campaign visit to Bridgeport in 2010 was viewed as being crucial to Malloy's narrow victory. He won by 6,404 votes out of 1.1 million cast.

Malloy on Thursday gave credit to New Haven and other urban voters for his victory four years ago.

"We were three points down in the polls, and New Haven and our other cities came forth," he said.

Foley has said visits by high-profile Democrats like the Obamas show Malloy believes that he needs help to get re-elected and that he can't win on his record. Foley began a campaign bus tour Thursday.

At several times, Mrs. Obama was interrupted by several people in the enthusiastic crowd, including activists who want the president to sign an executive order preventing the parents of children who are in the country illegally from being deported. The first lady urged the group to "turn this passion into work."

With a banner of "Connecticut Go Vote" behind her, the first lady warned the crowd that Malloy's re-election will not be easy. She spoke about how special interests were spending a lot of money on the race, something that happened in her husband's two elections. She credited those victories to voter turnout, saying, "We showed up and we voted."

"If we stay home on Election Day," Mrs. Obama said, "all we're doing is letting other folks decide the outcomes of our lives for us."

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