Michelle Obama to visit Las Vegas for political fundraiser

Michelle Obama will visit Las Vegas on Tuesday to raise money and rally supporters for President Barack Obama as the first couple kick off the formal general election campaign next week.

Her Tuesday morning stop in Southern Nevada is part of a four-state tour by the first lady, who also will campaign in Colorado and Arizona on Monday then Nevada and New Mexico on Tuesday.

Several days later, both Obamas will appear together at their first full-bore 2012 re-election rallies in Ohio and Virginia on May 5, a Saturday, signaling a shift into campaign mode as the president starts taking direct aim at Mitt Romney, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee.

"Welcome to the general election," Obama campaign manager Jim Messina said Wednesday evening in a conference call with reporters to tout the upcoming rallies.

In Las Vegas, Michelle Obama will speak at a private fundraising breakfast at the Springs Preserve. Guests will pay $2,500 per person to support the Obama Victory Fund, a joint fundraising committee for President Obama's campaign and the Democratic National Committee.

The first lady then will speak to invited Obama campaign volunteers and supporters in Las Vegas.

The last time Michelle Obama came to Las Vegas was for a private visit at the end of March. She brought her two daughters, who spent time on the Strip during their school spring break.

Four years ago, President Obama campaigned dozens of times in Nevada and easily won the state. He has made more than half a dozen stops in Nevada as president, looking for a repeat victory in the Silver State and in several other battleground Western states to ensure his return to the White House.

Romney also has focused much effort in Nevada. He won the Feb. 4 GOP presidential caucus with 50 percent of the vote and has a deep organization in the battleground state.

White House officials said that in Colorado Springs, Michelle Obama will meet with campaign volunteers and speak at the opening ceremony for the 2012 Warrior Games. About 200 wounded, ill and injured members of the military and veterans will compete in seven sports.

In Tucson, Ariz., the first lady will meet with young volunteers at a working urban farm. She will also promote her Let's Move! program to encourage healthy eating and exercise, White House officials said.

In Albuquerque, N.M., she will meet with members of the military and their families from Kirkland Air Force Base. She will also speak at a closed fundraising event for the re-election campaign.

Messina, President Obama's campaign manager, said the election will come down to a choice between the president's efforts to revive the economy and help the middle class and Romney's bid to "go back to the future" by giving "budget busting tax cuts" to the rich and requiring fewer Wall Street rules.

"Are we going to move forward or go backward?" Messina asked, noting that President Obama has pulled the country out of a deep recession. "Are we going to continue to turn the corner or turn back?"

Gail Gitcho, communications director for the Romney campaign, said as governor of Massachusetts Romney "balanced every budget, cut taxes 19 times and left office with a 4.7 percent unemployment rate" compared with Obama's "trillion dollar deficits, 19 tax increases and record unemployment. No amount of spin from the Obama campaign can change those numbers."

"As Mitt Romney said last night, 'It's still the economy, and we're not stupid,' " she added.