Based on her campaign speeches, what the first lady believes in most are her husband, her family and the administration’s record.
“Let’s not forget how, for the first time in history, our daughters and our sons watched three women take their seats on our nation’s highest court,” she said at a recent fundraiser. “And we are now feeling the impact of those court decisions and what effect that will have on our children’s lives for decades to come — on their privacy and security, on whether they can speak freely, worship openly, and, yes, love whomever they choose.”
Her mission, Axlerod said, is to convey what President Obama’s “passions are for this job and for this country.”
To that end, Michelle Obama will carry a significant campaign portfolio targeting core Democratic constituencies and serve as a headliner at the party convention. The television appearances will continue with a spot on the Food Network’s “Restaurant Impossible” in June.
“Campaign aside, from the day they came into office they wanted to find a way to open the doors of the White House and reach out beyond the population that typically watches the White House press conference, and she’s played a huge role there,” said Jen Psaki, the former White House deputy communications director. “The more people see and get to know the first lady, the more they like her, and that is a huge benefit to the president.” And a fairly traditional role for any first lady.
Her Republican counterpart, Ann Romney, is doing the same thing for her husband, presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney, softening his tough edges and making him a more likeable candidate.
But in political circles, the importance of a candidate’s spouse is a perennial debate. And some Republicans suggest that Michelle Obama’s impact is being overstated.
“Her popularity is not transferable,” said Ari Fleischer, who served as press secretary for President George W. Bush. “There’s no history that says it is.”
Even if it can’t be transferred, Michelle Obama seems intent to take advantage of her popularity.
She’s the only first lady to have appeared on the cover of Better Homes and Gardens, the country’s largest women’s magazine, with 40 million readers. A few weeks ago, a category on “Jeopardy” was dedicated to her White House garden.
Gayle Butler, editor-in-chief of Better Homes and Gardens, said she was comfortable putting Michelle Obama on the cover lounging against a picnic table with a basket of fruits and veggies because “it was not a political story; it was a story about promoting healthy eating for kids.”
Now the first lady’s team is getting ready to push her next big thing: On May 29, she will release her first book — “American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America.”