It’s not 2008. Still, when I asked the first lady about the presidential campaign then and now, she said, “There isn’t much of a difference this year, because the hope, the excitement, the enthusiasm, the possibilities — when I’m out there on the campaign trail I feel it the s
ame way that I did three and a half years ago.”
In 2012, though, “This election is going to be even closer than the last one, and in the end this could all come down to those few thousand votes,” she said.
That’s especially true, according to the latest polls, in swing states such as North Carolina, Iowa and Virginia that helped put Barack Obama in the White House.
That’s one reason Michelle Obama was on a Thursday conference call with women columnists in swing states where those few thousand votes will make the difference for the president and Republican Mitt Romney.
She was previewing her “It Takes One” campaign, which she was preparing to launch on Friday in Charlottesville, Va., another state crucial in the presidential contest.
It’s a return to the grassroots efforts that worked so well for the Obama campaign last time out. “We’re asking everyone to start by committing to just one action that helps grow this campaign, whether it’s registering one new voter, whether it’s recruiting one more volunteer, bringing a friend to phone bank,” she said.
Obama recalled visiting voters from the time of her husband’s first campaign: “There’s nothing harder than walking up to someone’s door and knocking on it. It was also really i
Meanwhile, Ann Romney, the woman who would like to take her place in the White House, was in my home state of North Carolina on Thursday, doing her part to put its 15 electoral votes in her husband’s column. She stopped in Greensboro, where she attended a fundraiser and, at a rally, touted her husband’s credentials. "He's a turnaround guy. He's turned around companies," she said. "He's turned around the Olympics. He turned around the state of Massachusetts."
Michelle Obama and Ann Romney can offer a targeted message and connection to women voters, who make up the majority of the American electorate.
The first lady talked about her campaign’s particular outreach to women, highlighting issues such as health care (“Should insurance companies be able to charge women more than men for the same coverage?”) as well as education (“Are we going to keep investing in our kids’ education and making college more affordable?”) and gender equality. (“How hard are we going to fight for equal pay in the workplace?”)
She said the campaign would be holding women’s summits and house parties, building momentum, “block by block, city by city.” In challenging economic times, with women’s demanding schedules at work and at home, she said, “The reality is, it’s even more important for the folks with the most at stake in this election to get involved.”
When an Iowa columnist asked how “It Takes One” and committed Obama supporters can transcend the fault lines, particularly over divisive social issues such as same-sex marriage or immigration reform, the first lady pointed to Iowa’s caucus system. “Some of the best folks who are able to enlighten, persuade are people who folks know,” she said. “I can convince people to some extent, but people look to the people they know, the people they see every day...Those are the conversations that people trust.”
In this campaign, the spouses – both popular with voters – are, as my colleague Melinda Henneberger pointed out, full partners. It’s not surprising that they would concentrate their efforts where the votes are.
Mary C. Curtis, an award-winning multimedia journalist in Charlotte, N.C., has worked at The New York Times, Charlotte Observer and as national correspondent for Politics Daily. Follow her on Twitter: @mcurtisnc3