The White House on Thursday essentially dared Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump to take on first lady Michelle Obama.
“I can’t think of a bolder way for Donald Trump to lose even more standing than he already has than by engaging the first lady of the United States,” Eric Schultz, principal deputy White House press secretary, told reporters on Air Force One.
Schultz’s baiting of the hook came shortly after Michelle Obama delivered a passionate — and blistering — speech at a Hillary Clinton campaign rally in Manchester, New Hampshire, on Thursday, in which she slammed Trump’s 2005 comments about groping and kissing women without their consent.
“I can’t stop thinking about this,” she told the audience. “It has shaken me to my core in a way I could not have predicted.”
Her voice broke up several times during the remarks, which political operatives of all stripes called “remarkable” and “powerful” on social media.
The first lady labeled Trump’s caught-on-tape comments about “grabbing” women by their genitals and forcibly kissing them “hurtful, hateful language about women.” She never used Trump’s name, but said the next U.S. president should adhere to “basic standards of human decency.”
The Republican standard-bearer has defended the leaked comments as just “locker room talk,” expressing regret while also shrugging them off as a boys-will-be-boys moment.
“This wasn’t just locker room banter,” Michelle Obama said Thursday.
“This was a powerful individual speaking freely and openly about sexually predatory behavior, and actually bragging about kissing and groping women, using language so obscene that many of us were worried about our children hearing it when we turned on the TV,” she said.
Many political experts believe the presidential race will boil down to a fight to turn out the vote in a handful of swing states. The Clinton campaign is using the first lady, President Barack Obama and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. in those very states.
Michelle Obama was in New Hampshire while Biden was heading to Nevada. The president will speak at a party event in Pennsylvania later Thursday, then at a Clinton rally in Ohio on Friday.
Notably, the first lady had a message for Democratic voters, especially women, who are lukewarm to Clinton and thinking of voting for a third-party candidate: Doing so would be a vote for Trump.
“Imagine waking up on Nov. 9 and looking into the eyes of your daughter or son, or looking into your own eyes as you stare into the mirror,” she said. “Imagine how you’ll feel if you stayed home, or if you didn’t do everything possible to elect Hillary. We simply cannot let that happen.”