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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Michelle Obama, Ricky Martin make closing case for Obama in Orlando




ORLANDO -- In her final solo stop of the campaign, First Lady Michelle Obama told a crowd here Monday to remember her husband’s accomplishments and not to turn their backs on "all of the progress that we've made."

"All of it’s at stake,” she said. “It’s all on the line. As Barack has said, this election will be even closer than the last one. That is the only guarantee. Just know that.”

The crowd of 2,600 people roared for Obama and also for her special warm-up act, Puerto Rican pop star Ricky Martin, at Southport Community Park in the southern part of the city.

Obama, wearing a black blazer for the evening rally, pointed out that her husband edged out McCain by 236,000 votes in Florida in 2008, which works out to just 36 votes per precinct, she said.

“On this last day, I just have one question: Are you ready for this? Are you fired up? Are you ready to roll up your sleeves for the next 24, 48 hours and work?” she said, to cheers.

“God bless you all. Let’s make this happen,” she said before jogging off stage to close her 28-minute speech.

Martin divided his speech into English and Spanish parts, appealing to the large amount of Hispanic fans in the audience who cheered “Sí, se puede!” as he spoke.

"We admire the courage he showed in affirming his belief in marriage equality," Martin said. "We know that if we want a president that does not change his mind every 20 minutes that we must vote for President Obama."

“I’m Puerto Rican, so I know Ricky Martin,” said Venus Seidel, a 35-year-old stay-at-home mom and independent voter who brought her four children to the rally. Her children are Obama fans and sntached up oversized shirts commemorating the president’s 2009 inauguration that were distributed in addition to “Forward” signs.

"I'll be glad when it's all over tomorrow,” she said, "when Obama gets another four years."

Obama high-lighted the president's record, including the repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy for gays in the military and the auto bail-out. 

"We've been making real and meaningful change, you hear me? Change that has meant something in people's lives," she said.

State Rep. Geraldine Thompson, D-Orlando, said, "She took us back to where we were four years ago, and a lot of people have forgotten that."

Supporters here said that progress is still not good enough. Nathan Araya, 26, an Orlando towncar driver, said he will vote for Obama but “he’s gotta do better.”

“I’m not satisfied,” he said. “We need to see a real change.”

Obama's visit came about nine hours after Mitt Romney addressed supporters in Sanford, about 30 miles from the baseball park.

Obama's final stop, she said, will be with the president in Des Moines, Iowa. She told the crowd not to be discouraged by long lines at the polls, perhaps a nod to state news reports about hours-long waits in Orlando and South Florida for early voting Saturday.

"I know he's going to win," said Maria Carrion, 64, holding a "Hispanics for Obama" sign and speaking in Spanish. "We have God's blessing and we are praying for him."

Times photo by Will Vragovic


[Last modified: Tuesday, November 6, 2012 9:29am]


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