DENVER - First lady Michelle Obama urged a Denver crowd of about 1,500 supporters Thursday to be the votes that tip the scales for Democrats in Colorado during next month's midterm elections.
"A lot of people were shocked when Barack won because they were counting on people like us to stay home," Obama told the crowd in a redeveloped industrial space in Denver's River North Arts District. "These midterm races will be even harder and even closer than 2008 and 2012 ... they are just as important, and the stakes this year could not be higher."
With a few weeks remaining in the national race for control of the U.S. Senate, Obama is on the campaign trail. She spent Thursday propping up Colorado's Sen. Mark Udall, who is in a knock-down, drag-out fight against Republican Rep. Cory Gardner. She also urged voters to re-elect Gov. John Hickenlooper, who is neck-and-neck with Republican challenger Bob Beauprez.
Udall retaining his office for another six years could be the determining factor in who controls the Senate. If Gardner wins the race, Republicans will likely take control.
Before this event, Udall and Hickenlooper faced accusations of distancing themselves from the Obama administration, particularly as the president's approval ratings have plummeted. Udall took the stage before the first lady and introduced the "fittest first lady," a nod to Michelle Obama's national campaign to tackle childhood obesity and improve school lunches.
"We're going to win this race. We're going to win it up and down the ticket because of you," Udall told the crowd.
Hickenlooper wasn't at the event in Denver but attended a later event at Colorado State University, where Obama spoke to a crowd of about 2,000.
Obama praised Udall for his tenacity, for working for veterans and to balance the budget.
"Mark has reached out across the aisle to get things done for this state," she said.
In Fort Collins, Obama told the story of a young woman she had mentored at the White House, who grew up homeless and had her father killed when she was a baby. Now she is attending Georgetown University.
Obama said there are many youths like that woman.
"These kids have every reason to give up. They have every reason to quit. But they are so hungry to succeed, they are so desperate to lift themselves up," Obama said, her voice occasionally shaking with emotion.
"That is what keeps Barack and I working so hard despite the mess. We work hard because those kids can never give up."
She urged the crowd to go vote at a polling station in the same student union where she spoke.
"Bring the cute guy or girl you met at the party last weekend," she said to cheers.
The Obamas haven't spent much time on the campaign trail compared with their predecessors in office during tough midterm elections.
But Obama's message Thursday in Denver was about getting out the vote, and reviving the excitement that carried the current president into office.
"If we don't elect leaders like Mark who will put our families first instead of fighting for special interests then we know exactly what will happen," Obama said. "We will see more folks interfering with women's private decisions about our health care. We'll see more opposition to immigration reform and raising the minimum wage."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.