WASHINGTON — After almost eight years of playing it safe, first lady Michelle Obama ferociously denounced Donald Trump on Thursday while campaigning for Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire.

“Last week, we saw this candidate actually bragging about sexually assaulting women,” Obama said at a Manchester rally, never using Trump’s name in her speech.

“. . . And I have to tell you that I can’t stop thinking about this. It has shaken me to my core in a way that I couldn’t have predicted. So while I’d love nothing more than to pretend like this isn’t happening and to come out here and do my normal campaign speech, it would be dishonest and disingenuous to me to just move on to the next thing like this was all just a bad dream. This is not something that we can ignore,” she said.

Hip, aspirational and always remembering her humble roots on Chicago’s South Side, Obama speaks to youths, women and African Americans. One of her signature initiatives is “Let Girls Learn,” which she celebrated for the last time at the White House on Tuesday.

Obama has been on the road for Clinton, using a version of her upbeat Democratic convention speech in which, alluding to Trump, she counseled to “aim high” when “they go low.”

Trump’s vulgar behavior, surfacing on a 2005 video last Friday — compounded by his digging in since then — has moved Obama to confront Trump and his “sexually predatory behavior” in far more blunt terms.
She is taking on Trump as much for herself, as for Clinton.

“This was not just ‘locker room banter,’ ” she said, referring to Trump’s excuse for his words and behavior. Other women coming forward, telling the New York Times about Trump’s groping and other sexual advances, underscored the Friday revelations. Trump said he is being smeared.

“This was a powerful individual speaking openly and freely about sexually predatory behavior and actually bragging about kissing and groping women, using language that was so obscene, many of us were worried about our children hearing it when we turned on the TV. And to make matters worse, it now seems very clear that this isn’t an isolated incident. It’s one of countless examples of how he has treated women his whole life, and I have to tell you, I’ve listened to this, and I feel it so personally.”

Said Obama: “Strong men, strong men, men who are truly role models, don’t need to put down women to make themselves feel powerful. People who are truly strong lift others up.”