RENO, Nev. — Campaigning for her husband as a champion of working people, first lady Michelle Obama made a special appeal Wednesday in Nevada to women and students she says are among those with the most to lose if he is beaten in the November election.
"When it comes to understanding the lives of women ... standing up for our rights and opportunities, we know my husband will always have our backs," she told a crowd of about 3,800 on the campus of the University of Nevada, Reno.
She drew the biggest cheers when she described the health care reform that can keep students on their parents' insurance until age 26, and how her husband has worked to defend the same student loan programs he needed to get through college.
The Obamas were celebrating their 20th anniversary on Wednesday, the same day the president and Republican Mitt Romney were staging their first debate in Colorado.
Michelle Obama recalled her husband two decades ago as "gorgeous" and talented, and said she married him for his character, decency, passion and conviction.
"He turned down high-paying jobs and instead started his career fighting to get folks back to work in struggling communities," she said.
Democrats have stepped up efforts to portray Romney as a wealthy elitist out of touch with everyday people since a secret recording emerged last month in which he says 47 percent of Americans believe they are victims and are dependent on government.
Romney's campaign dispatched his wife, Ann, to Nevada last week to combat any suggestion that he doesn't sympathize with less fortunate people.
She told a crowd of 400 people in Reno that her husband has a good heart and does things for the right reasons.
Without naming Mitt Romney, Michelle Obama painted a sharp contrast Wednesday between the rich and the working class roots of the Obamas. She said she and her husband were raised in families that "weren't asking for much" and "didn't mind if others had more than they did, in fact they admired it."
"When you finally walk through that doorway of opportunity, you don't slam it shut behind you," she said. "You reach back and give others the same chances that helped you."