Michelle Obama drew bursts of applause and a standing ovation Tuesday in a speech in Manhattan that was as much an endorsement of her husband's policies as a rallying cry to the Democratic Party's troops.

"Are you in?" she asked at the end of a 20-minute address to 400 campaign workers, most of them women. "Are you ready for work? We all have to be fired up and ready to go."

The first lady's speech at a $500-and-up-per-plate fundraiser was aimed at motivating women, who she said had much at stake in the 2012 election.

Her appearance came as President Barack Obama continues to face criticism from within his own party for seeming to give in too easily to Republicans in Congress and not taking a firmer stand on issues such as protecting the environment. His approval rating is about 43 percent and polls show he would face a tough fight against Texas Gov. Rick Perry or former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the top GOP contenders.

His campaign has indicated that fundraising slipped from June to September. And there has been discontent among some 2008 donors, with some Wall Street cash shifting to Romney, co-founder of buyout firm Bain Capital, a sign of business unease with Obama's tenure.

Michelle Obama's speech praised Ms. Magazine founder and feminist pioneer Gloria Steinem while invoking Steinem's efforts on behalf of women and girls.

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"Fortunately for us, Gloria made a different choice," she said. "She stuck with it for the long haul.. . . In the end, we're not fighting these battles for ourselves, we're fighting them for our daughters and our granddaughters."

was heavy on domestic policy. She saluted health-care reform, stressed the importance of education policy, marveled that the U.S. Supreme Court now has three women, and stumped for a key economic policy device -- the American Jobs Act that the president unveiled recently.

"Right now, we stand at a fundamental crossroads," she said. "When it comes to just about every issue, from our health, our economic security, our basic rights and freedoms, the stakes for American women have never been higher." With Reuters