Raleigh (CNN)With mere weeks until Election Day, the Clinton campaign is committing considerable time to North Carolina.
Hillary Clinton and first lady Michelle Obama on Thursday will campaign together for the first time, in North Carolina, a state that Clinton’s top aides view as a must-win for Donald Trump.
The two first ladies — one former, one current — will campaign together in Winston-Salem, Brian Fallon, Clinton’s spokesman said Sunday.
Clinton’s strategy in North Carolina, a state that voted for then-Sen. Barack Obama on 2008 but flipped back to Republicans in 2012, relies heavily on high turnout from African American and Latino voters and a strong showing with college-educated whites, all groups that have grown in the state since four years ago.
Michelle Obama’s appearances for Clinton have garnered as much — if not more — attention than any other campaign surrogate.
“I think she has emerged as our not so secret weapon out on the trail. She has exceeded our expectations in terms of how many events she has been able to do and been willing to do,” Fallon said. “Her team keeps surprising us with additional availability and we can’t, from our vantage point, get her out there enough.”
He added, “She has been an absolute rock star.”
Clinton also campaigned in North Carolina on Sunday, attending church at a predominantly black congregation in Durham, and then headlining a rally at St. Augustine’s University in Raleigh.
Clinton slammed Trump at the church service, saying that Republican nominee paints a “bleak picture of inner cities and the African American community” while arguing that systemic racism could be fixed with more law-and-order.
Later in the day, at an outdoor rally in Raleigh, Clinton looked beyond Trump and began arguing in favor of key down-ballot Democrats, casting them as the kind of people she needs to be able to get things done if she wins the presidency.
Clinton singled out Roy Cooper and Deborah Ross, the North Carolina Democratic gubernatorial and Senate nominees, respectively.
“He knows that discrimination is not only wrong — guess what, it is bad for business,” Clinton said of Cooper and House Bill 2, the so-called bathroom bill, that GOP Gov. Pat McCory signed earlier this year. The law, in the eyes of its critics, discriminates against LGBT Americans and has caused a number of sports leagues and companies to pull business from the state.
“North Carolina deserves a governor who puts the people of this state first, not some kind of ideological agenda,” Clinton said.
Clinton heralded Ross as the “kind of partner I need in the United States Senate.”
“Unlike her opponent, Deborah has never been afraid to stand up to Donald Trump,” Clinton said. “She knows that he is wrong for America, she knows that people of courage and principles need to come together to reject his dangerous and divisive agenda.”
Clinton has looked to punish Republicans who are refusing to disavow Trump for the last two days, hammering Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania while she campaigned in the state on Saturday.
Her aides say these comments are part of a strategy that they hope will help Clinton both win the White House and possibly secure a Democratic Senate in the process.