— -- First lady Michelle Obama in her first joint campaign appearance with Hillary Clinton began on a personal note.
"I just want to take this moment publicly to thank Hillary," Obama said after giving Clinton a hug on stage at a rally in North Carolina to encourage early voting.
"It takes a level of generosity of spirit to do what Hillary has done in her career and her life for our family, for this nation," Obama told the crowd of more than 11,000 at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem. "And if people wonder, yes, Hillary Clinton is my friend, she has been a friend to me and Barack and Malia and Sasha, and Bill and Chelsea have been supportive from the very day my husband took the oath of office.
"So I am grateful for Hillary, for her leadership, for her courage and for what she is going to do for this country," she said.
The first lady, who has tried to stay out of the political fray during her husband's presidency, enjoys one of the highest approval ratings among Democratic figures in the country. A recent Fox News poll found she received a 59 percent positive rating overall and a 95 percent favorable rating among Democrats.
Now, she is one of Clinton's top surrogates.
In her speech today, Obama ripped what she called Trump's "vision that's grounded in hopelessness and despair ... This candidate calls on us to turn against each other, to build walls, to be afraid. And then there's Hillary's vision for this country."
"Hillary doesn't play," Obama said, and is "someone who we can trust with the nuclear codes because we want to go to sleep at night knowing our kids and country are safe."
The first lady also countered Trump's claim that the election "is rigged."
In the United States, she said, "The voters decide our elections; they've always decided. Voters decide who wins and who loses, period, end of story. And right now, thankfully, folks are coming out in droves to vote early."
Early voting is underway in North Carolina and Clinton's campaign has said they're encouraged by the numbers that have come in so far.
Obama, repeating her now well-known phrase from the Democratic National Convention that has become a battle cry of the Clinton campaign, said today, "When they go low, we go high."
The best way to go high, she said, is to vote: "Hillary has done her job. Now we need to do our job and get her elected president of the United States,"
Obama was preceded on stage by Clinton who said, "Seriously, is there anyone more inspiring than Michelle Obama?" as Obama, as if in answer, pointed at the Democratic nominee.
"Maybe it's especially meaningful to me because I do know something about being first lady of the United States," Clinton said.
The presidential candidate spent nearly her entire speech praising Obama on everything from her work with children to her speech in New Hampshire earlier this month slamming Trump for his comments about women and sexual assault.
“Let's be real," Clinton said. "As our first African-American first lady, she's faced pressures I never did. And she's handled them with pure grace."
"By any standards, she has been an outstanding first lady who has made us all so proud," Clinton added.
Clinton also applauded Obama's work on behalf of military families, hitting Trump for his attack on the Muslim parents of a fallen U.S. solider and his saying he knows more about the military than our generals.
"Well, actually, Donald, you're the one who's got a lot to learn about the military and everything else that makes America great," Clinton said, then pivoted to again noting Obama's work promoting children's health and nutrition.
"We actually are seeing kids who are healthier, something that she was determined to try to achieve," Clinton said.
The Democratic nominee also complimented the first lady on her appearance on the Late Show with James Corden's 'Carpool Karaoke' and her White House vegetable garden.