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BILLINGS - Michelle Obama urged supporters of her husband's presidential bid to gear up for a tough November election as the campaign looked beyond Tuesday's primaries.

On the eve of the last two contests in Montana and South Dakota, the wife of Democratic contender Barack Obama spoke to about 250 supporters at a rally in Billings.

Michelle Obama did not mention Hillary Rodham Clinton, saying instead, "The real work begins after Tuesday."

Clinton, trailing in the delegate count, hopes wins on Tuesday will persuade the remaining uncommitted superdelegates to back her and keep her presidential bid alive.

At stake in Tuesday's primaries are 31 delegates to the national convention - 16 in Montana and 15 in South Dakota. Currently, Obama needs just over 40 delegates to secure the nomination.

"He did what people said you couldn't do," Michelle Obama said as she traced her husband's rise to front-runner status. "There was an inevitable candidate, and it wasn't Barack."

She referred to the war in Iraq, education and universal health care as areas where Democrats can draw distinctions with Republicans and their presumptive nominee, John McCain.

"The choices are clear. As we move into the general (election), the issues will become strikingly more apparent," she said.

Michelle Obama was scheduled to appear at another Montana rally, in Kalispell, on Monday afternoon.

Her appearances capped a frenzied month of Democratic campaigning in Montana, which is usually far from the fray of presidential primaries because its contest comes so late. With the nomination in doubt right up to the end, both major candidates visited within the last week.

Obama was in Great Falls on Friday, his third trip to Montana since early April. Clinton's visits to Billings and Pablo, Mont., last Tuesday marked her second trip to the state this season. Her husband, former president Bill Clinton, also made several Montana trips.

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