Michelle Obama hits 2012 fund-raising trail for first time

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WASHINGTON–First Lady Michelle Obama is finally starting to raise money for President Barack Obama’s re-election, with an event in Atlanta on Sunday and a keynote here Thursday at a forum for women contributors.

With both Obama’s speaking at the Democratic National Committee’s Women’s Leadership Forum–the president addressed the group in the evening–I was told team Obama raised $2 million to help bankroll the second term campaign.

Mrs. Obama speech at the Atlanta reception and here provided the first look at her re-election pitch. In Washington, she did not name any Republican potential rivals–(that would be news and off message) but did bring up the May 1 death of Osama bin Laden in a raid led by U.S. special forces in Pakistan.

Said Mrs. Obama before a crowd of about 550–almost all women– at the Washington Grand Hyatt, “Now, more than ever before, we need to finish what we’ve started and we need your help. We need all of you to be with us for the next phase of our journey.

“And I am not going to kid you, because I never do, I said this in the first campaign it is going to be long. It is going to be hard. It’s designed that way. And there will be plenty of twists and turns along the way.”

Without using bin Laden’s name, Mrs. Obama said,”Thanks to the tireless work of our intelligence and counter-terrorism communities and the heroic efforts of our troops, the man behind the 9/11 attacks and so many other horrific acts has finally been brought to justice.”

Obama was far more direct when he talked about bin Laden at a May 10 fund-raiser in Austin, Texas., “Osama bin Laden will never again threaten the United States of America.”

While President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have been on the road for months collecting millions of dollars on the elite donor circuit for their re-election, Mrs. Obama–one of the very top draws–has been reluctant to throw herself back on the fund-raising trail. It’s still not clear how much time she will devote to political fund-raising.

Mrs. Obama did no fund-raising trips in 2009 and in 2010 waited until October to help candidates raise cash for the November mid-term election.

The White House and the Obama 2012 campaign sent big names to the Washington event–designed as a substantive forum because that format helps lure major female donors.

The speakers and administration attendees at the WLF forum included: Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright; White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett; Mrs. Obama Chief of Staff Tina Tchen; Democratic National Committee Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fl.); Cecile Richards, President, Planned Parenthood Action Fund; EPA director Lisa Jackson, Health and Human Services Sec. Kathleen Sebelius; Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.); former White House communications director Anita Dunn; White House special projects chief Stephanie Cutter; and the top three Obama 2012 honchos: campaign manager Jim Messina, and deputies Jennifer O’Malley Dillon Julianna Smoot and organizer Buffy Wicks.

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