Photos: Michelle Obama tells Castle Rock crowd why she fell in love with Barack

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In the final weeks of the election, one thing is clear: A very small margin of voters will ultimately determine the victor in Colorado, which has become one of the most important battleground states in the country. That was part of the message from First Lady Michelle Obama, who rallied voters yesterday afternoon just 25 miles south of the University of Denver, where Barack Obama's botched debate performance one week earlier continues to hurt him in swing state polls.

"It is now on us, right? Because we have to remember that all the wonderful and important hard work, all the progress that we've made, it is all on the line. It's all at stake this November," the First Lady told a crowd of more than 3,000 packed into the Douglas County Fairgrounds yesterday. "As my husband said...this election will be even closer than the last one. And it could all come down to what happens in just a few key battleground states, like right here in Colorado."

While Obama focused on her husband's character and their personal relationship in her speech -- much like Ann Romney when she championed Mitt in a Colorado rally last week -- the First Lady also spent some time explaining just how important the final weeks of the campaign are for a state like Colorado.

"If you think back to what happened in 2008, Barack won Colorado by about 215,000 votes. And that might sound like a lot to some. But when you break that number down across precincts, that's just 73 votes per precinct. That was the margin of difference. 73 votes, you know?" she said. "And it's like that all over the country. The margin of difference in most elections is tangible. It's knowable. It's right here in this room! Because that could mean just a couple of votes in your neighborhood -- just a single vote in an apartment building or a dorm room."

She continued, "So this is what I want people to realize.... If there is anyone here who might be thinking that their vote doesn't matter...who thinks that in this big, complex political process, that ordinary folks can't possibly make a difference, I want you to think about those 73 votes. That's you. That is you. So, I want you all to focus on that number."

It was a coherent breakdown on why every vote in Colorado really is important -- in a speech delivered a day after the Secretary of State's office announced that Colorado has record-breaking voter registrations this year at 3.6 million. Indeed, Democrats have made gains in registrations here -- and the Obama team says it is now focused on turning those registrations into votes.

"A few of you could swing an entire precinct for Barack Obama, and if we win enough precincts, we will win this state, and if we win this state, we'll be well on our way to putting Barack Obama back in the White House for four more years," the First Lady said.

"Do me a favor -- for the next 26 days...talk to everyone you know. Talk to your friends, your neighbors, the folks on the fence, the folks who don't quite know how much progress we've been making -- that nephew you haven't seen in a while. Find him. Shake him up," she continued. "The classmate that you know isn't voting...the person that's going to fall asleep and not wake up on Election Day."

Continue for more from her speech and comments from supporters. The First Lady got some of the loudest applause for comments related to the Denver debate, first with her comment, "We believe that the truth matters" -- likely alluding to alleged Romney's flip-flops that the Obama campaign has been highlighting since last week.

Shortly thereafter, she added, "We believe in keeping our priorities straight. We know good and well that cutting Sesame Street is no way to balance our budget."

She also highlighted the president's personal qualities -- discussing one of her favorite parts of campaigning: "I get to talk about the man that I have loved and admired since the first day I met him 23 years ago."

She said, "I am so proud of our president.... Although my husband is handsome, charming, and incredibly smart...what truly made me fall in love with Barack Obama was his heart. It's that heart and that character that you all have seen.... It's his decency and honesty. It's his compassion and conviction."

Her rally in Colorado comes after the president has made nearly a dozen stops so far this year in the state, which has been no stranger to Romney and Paul Ryan, either. And next week Vice President Joe Biden will visit Colorado.

Toward the end of her speech, the First Lady got somewhat emotional, saying, "Don't let anybody tell you any differently -- elections are always about hope.... Don't let anybody drown that hope out of you. That's why we're here today."

Continue for comments from supporters at the rally. Christa Rogers, 55, said the First Lady's speech changed her perspective on the final weeks of the race.

"I had tears in my eyes," she said. "There were no gimmicks, no faking.... She is everybody's mom.... And I'm going to do everything I can now, starting tonight."

The Denver resident said the First Lady inspired her to volunteer for the president as much as she can in the final weeks -- not that she's worried Obama will lose.

"The truth always wins," she said.

Referencing the First Lady's comments on the economic disaster that the president inherited, supporter Beth Mottes, 42, said, "What she did best is say exactly where he came from and what he has done.... We came from one of the worst catastrophes."

Her friend Cheryl Mee, forty, chimed in, "She speaks our language."

Supporter Karen Barsch, 51, said the polls remain a worry for her. She is optimistic Obama can win, but remains concerned, she said. "Romney can say things that don't make any sense, and the general public lets him get away with it.... The opposition is getting away with statements that are not true."

Continue for more photos. Continue for more photos. Continue for more photos.

More from our Politics archive: "Number of illegal voters removed from Colorado rolls after Scott Gessler's campaign? Fourteen"

Follow Sam Levin on Twitter at @SamTLevin. E-mail the author at Sam.Levin@Westword.com.

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