Michelle Obama to lead grass-roots campaign effort

Michelle Obama, who has defined herself in the White House as mom-in-chief, has become a cheerleader-in-chief for her husband’s reelection campaign. This Friday she plans to launch an unusual campaign within the Obama campaign, which aides have dubbed “It Takes One.”

Her campaign centers on organizing voter turnout and building neighborhood teams to work for President Obama’s reelection. Michelle Obama will appear on her own in ads touting the initiative, an overtly political role somewhat rare for a first lady.

The effort acknowledges a critical question looming over the 2012 race: Can Obama’s campaign revive its grass-roots organization, which drew record numbers to mass rallies during the 2008 campaign?

In a three-minute video that introduces the initiative, Obama reflects on her early days campaigning with her husband when he ran for Illinois state senate. As old photos of the first couple flash across the screen, she describes how they would knock on doors and collect signatures with a couple of friends.

“In the end, it could all come down to those last few voters in a single state,” the first lady says in the video. “That one conversation you have, that one new volunteer you recruit — that could be the difference between waking up on November 7th and feeling the promise of four more years or asking yourself, ‘Could I have done more?’ ”

The initiative gives Obama a role other first ladies have not had — overseer of her own branded reelection initiative.

Her effort is a testament to both her popularity and the need to energize the president’s supporters. Polls show Michelle Obama remains one of the most popular figures in the Democratic Party, while the lackluster economy has dampened enthusiasm for her husband.

In the 2008 campaign, Michelle Obama stirred controversy over a statement on patriotism, and she has drawn more recent criticism regarding her push for Americans to eat a more healthful diet. But today, nearly seven out of 10 Americans have favorable views of her, and the numbers are higher among core Democratic voters.

Michelle Obama has already raised money around the country for her husband’s reelection effort and held rallies in swing states, including Colorado, Florida, Virginia and Nevada.

She is set to return to Virginia on Friday to announce the “It Takes One” effort, delivering remarks at an afternoon event aimed at women in Charlottesville and speaking to campaign supporters in Fredericksburg.

Krissah Thompson began writing for The Washington Post in 2001. She has been a business reporter, covered presidential campaigns and written about civil rights and race. More recently, she has covered the first lady's office, politics and culture.

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