PORTLAND – First lady Michelle Obama told hundreds of supporters at a fundraiser Friday that next year’s presidential election will determine the nation’s future for generations.

The 2012 election presents a stark contrast between two visions, she said in a speech at Portland’s Ocean Gateway cruise ship terminal, and a Republican victory will hurt working families.

“Whether it’s health care or the economy or education or foreign policy, the choice we make in this election will determine nothing less than who we are as a country and who we want to be,” she said.

Obama’s 25-minute speech focused primarily on her husband’s policy initiatives, and she said some of those initiatives require patience.

“Change that is lasting and meaningful takes time,” she said.

About 650 people paid at least $100 each to attend the rally, which featured appearances by the state’s top Democrats, U.S. Reps. Chellie Pingree and Mike Michaud. Donors in the “preferred” section paid $250 each.

Pingree told the crowd that she met Michelle Obama earlier in the day and found herself “star-struck.” “She’s tall, outspoken and smart,” Pingree told the crowd. “I can’t say how pleased I am that she represents us.”

Many people who heard the speech said they were moved by the first lady’s message.

“She was fabulous,” said Anne Belden, president of Hardy Girls, Healthy Women, a nonprofit that promotes learning experiences for young women. “I love the role model she’s being for women and girls everywhere.”

State Rep. Jeff McCabe, D-Skowhegan, brought his 5-year-old daughter, Carly, to the fundraiser. They were among a few dozen VIPs who met with Obama during a private reception just before she spoke.

McCabe said he was moved when Obama spoke about her husband’s commitment to helping people and promoting opportunity for everyone. “She talked about how we don’t leave people behind,” McCabe said. “She was a dynamic speaker. As good as (President Obama), if not better.”

Before the event at Ocean Gateway, Obama attended a smaller fundraiser at a home in Cape Elizabeth.

Friday ended the third quarter for campaign finance reports. The Obama campaign raised $86 million in the quarter ending June 30.

Democrats declined to say how much Michelle Obama raised during her visit to Maine, which benefited the re-election campaign and the National Democratic Committee.

About 4 p.m., a seven-car motorcade took Obama to the Portland International Jetport. She then flew to Providence, R.I., for another fundraising event.

The crowd at Ocean Gateway included a mix of young activists and longtime Democrats. At least two Portland mayoral candidates were there: Mayor Nicholas Mavodones and former state Sen. Michael Brennan.

Also attending were former Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, former Attorney General Janet Mills, and Kit St. John, director of the left-leaning Maine Center for Economic Policy.

It was Michelle Obama’s first visit to Maine since her family vacationed in Bar Harbor in the summer of 2010.

Fourteen girls, mostly 11- and 12-year-olds, from the Yarmouth Colts soccer team came to get their photograph taken with the first lady. “We are so excited,” said 12-year-old Greta Elder. “Our feet were jittery all day.”

MaineToday Media State House Writer Tom Bell can be contacted at 791-6369 or at: [email protected]