As first lady Michelle Obama held her first 2012 campaign rally in Las Vegas on Tuesday, President Barack Obama slipped into Afghanistan to lay out his plan to end the long and unpopular war - and to remind TV viewers watching back home that he ended the war in Iraq, too.
Obama's surprise trip to Kabul coincided with the one-year anniversary of Navy SEALs killing al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden under his watch, something the first lady touted on the trail.
"We finally brought to justice the man behind the 9/11 attacks and so many other horrific acts of violence," Michelle Obama said at a private fundraiser before rallying a room packed with supporters at the Springs Preserve, a 180-acre nature area a few miles west of the Strip.
Now in full campaign mode, the Obamas are promoting what the president has accomplished since he took office in 2009 and arguing it may all be undone if he doesn't win re-election in 2012.
"In the end, it all boils down to one simple question," the first lady said, addressing more than 450 sign-waving Obama backers. "Will we continue the change we've begun and the progress we've made, or will we allow everything we've fought for to just slip away?"
"No!" the crowd shouted back.
"We can't turn back now. We need to keep moving forward," she said, using the Obama campaign's new re-election theme. "We have so much more work to do. And more than anything else that's what we're working for - the chance to finish what we started."
The Obama campaign sent the popular first lady to Nevada because of its status as a must-win state where the Democrat is looking for a repeat victory. The Las Vegas morning stop came on the second day of a swing through four battlegrounds, including Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico.
Mitt Romney, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, has strong support in the Silver State, too, having won the Feb. 4 Republican presidential caucus with 50 percent of the vote.
Yet Romney faces an uphill fight here and across the country to beat Obama, who has the power of the presidency and the bully pulpit to get voters' attention, much like White House occupants before him. In recent history, only former Presidents Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush didn't win re-election, each felled in part by dismal economic conditions .
"It's very tough to beat an incumbent," said Dave Damore, political science professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. "He has the ability to fundraise, the ability to command media attention and the ability to list all of those accomplishments since he took office."
Romney's best hope is to win the argument Republicans make that Obama has hindered a stronger economic recovery and wasted taxpayer dollars by picking and choosing private industries to save while millions of working men and women have lost jobs, homes and savings.
"Since President Obama took office, the Republican advantage has only grown because Nevadans have lost faith in President Obama's ability to bring down unacceptably high unemployment levels," said Darren Littell, spokesman for the Republican National Committee's Team Nevada. "President Obama's broken promises and failed policies have only made Nevada lean more Republican."
Democrats still hold about a 35,000 registered voter edge over Republicans in Nevada compared with a 100,000 Democratic advantage four years ago when Obama easily won the state.
In her Las Vegas campaign pitch, the first lady urged supporters to work just as hard this year to register Democratic voters and spread Obama's message, saying community organizing is how he won the White House in 2008 and how he will do it again.
"Barack cannot do this alone. That was never the promise," she said. "He needs your help. He needs all of you to keep giving a little part of your lives each week for this campaign."
Supporters at the fundraiser at a cafe inside the preserve offered money as well as their time. The 130 guests paid at least $2,500 each, raising more than $300,000 for the Obama Victory Fund, a committee jointly raising money for his re-election campaign and the Democratic National Committee.
In her 23-minute speech at the breakfast fundraiser, the first lady cast the 2012 election as a choice between those who want to protect the middle class such as her husband and those who want to give tax breaks to the rich.
She didn't mention Romney by name, but he clearly was her target.
"I know that you're here because this November we are going to make a choice that will impact our lives for decades to come," she said. "And I know you're here because you know that choice is not just going to affect all of us, but it will affect our children and our grandchildren. And it's going to affect the world we leave behind for them long after we're gone."
She promoted what Obama has accomplished, including middle-class tax cuts, health care reform, saving the auto industry, creating more than 4 million jobs, and ending the war in Iraq as promised.
Michelle Obama told the moneyed backers the campaign won't be easy.
"I'm not going to kid you," she said. "This journey is going to be long. And it's going to be hard. That is guaranteed. And there will be plenty of twists and turns along the way. But that's how change always happens in this country. The reality is real change is slow and it never happens all at once."
She took up the same themes as she rallied hundreds of invited volunteers and supporters in the Desert Living Center, an eco-friendly building with shaded windows and a rain catchment roof.
Pumping up the overflow crowd, the first lady was interrupted with loud applause and cheers several times during her 20-minute speech. At one point, when she was ticking off her husband's attributes, someone from the crowd shouted: "He's got you!"
"And we have all of you," the first lady responded to cheers.
She said Obama's supporters need to work hard for every vote to preserve the gains her husband has made in health care reform, creating jobs, turning around the economy around, protecting the middle class and fighting for equal pay for women.
The first lady ended the rally with a familiar call and response with the crowd.
"Are you in?" she asked.
"Yeah!" the crowd shouted.
"Are you in?"
"You all fired up," she added.
"Yeah!" the crowd returned.
Contact Laura Myers at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2919. Follow @lmyerslvrj on Twitter.