Photo: First Lady Michelle Obama. (Getty Images)
A massive Obama-Biden sign hung alongside a Cleveland Indians baseball banner this afternoon on the suite-level of Progressive Field as first lady Michelle Obama thanked a crowd of her husband’s Ohio campaign volunteers.
The first lady entered the room at 12:26, cheered by more than 100 people behind a rope line.
“We can’t hear you!” a few in the back shouted as Obama offered brief words of thanks.
“I’ll come around,” the first lady responded. “I want to thank every single person.”
Obama then worked the rope line. She hugged most of the women in the audience and shared laughs or personal comments with others.
“You working hard today?” she asked one volunteer.
The first lady left the room at 12:46 to attend an Obama campaign fund-raiser in Progressive Field’s Terrace Club restaurant.
Volunteers were invited for the brief face time before the reception as a reward for spending the weekend canvassing door-to-door in this key battleground state.
Campaign organizers said they knocked on 8,500 doors in Cuyahoga County — the state’s largest county and a Democratic stronghold — Saturday and Sunday.
As volunteers waited for the first lady’s arrival, a sound system played “Let’s Stay Together,” the Al Green classic that President Barack Obama sang during an unexpected but memorable performance at a January fund-raiser. The diverse play list also included alt-rockers Arcade Fire.
The volunteers ranged in age from college-age young adults to senior citizens. Some wore business suits; others were in jeans and shorts.
“You guys are the backbone of this campaign,” Aaron Pickrell, senior adviser to the Obama campaign in Ohio said before warming up the crowd with chants of “Fired up! Ready to Go!”
Volunteer Craig Lindell, a retired marketer from the eastern suburb of Solon, described the first lady as “very warm.”
Reyes Torres-Herrera, a phone banker from Cleveland who makes calls in English and Spanish, showed off a photograph from the May 6 issue of the Columbus Dispatch. She pointed out her tiny face in the crowd in the picture of the first lady on stage at Ohio State University, where the president kicked off his campaign this month.
“She gave me a nice hug,” Torres-Herrera told reporters after the Progressive Field meet-and-greet. “I was so excited.”
Karolyn Isenhart, an Obama campaign organizer in the western suburb of Lakewood, said the first lady connects with Cleveland crowds because “she’s a Midwest girl. She shares our story — working-class family, middle-class family. We have all that in common.
Progressive Field is the home ballpark of the Indians, currently in first place in the American League Central Division. The team is off today before beginning a three-game home series Tuesday against the division-rival Detroit Tigers.
(Although I was in the media section, I couldn’t get that close to the First Lady, but she was so warm and personable from what I observed with grace and class. More photos to come.. stay tuned, Grace)