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Wife Touts Obama's 'Moral Compass'

By Politics
Tuesday, May 8, 2007

WINDHAM, N.H., May 7 Michelle Obama, making an early campaign foray for her husband in the state with the nation's first presidential primary, praised her husband Monday for having a "moral compass" and contended that quality counts more than the "experience" on which many of his Democratic rivals are basing their campaigns.

Challengers have pointed to the relative inexperience of the senator from Illinois in national politics as a liability in his bid for the White House, and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) has attempted to undercut her main opponent by stressing her years in Washington. But Michelle Obama, a Harvard-educated lawyer who works in a management position at the University of Chicago Hospitals, said her husband has a more rounded résumé.

"I know that experience is important, right? But experience without the sort of moral compass is not enough," she said at a house party not far from Manchester, where she also appeared on Monday. "And it's not just enough to check off a bunch of boxes and say, 'I've spent so many years in Washington,' because Barack has those experiences. He doesn't have the checked-box experiences, but he has experience that makes a difference."

Michelle Obama used a similar line -- a variation on one popularized by Obama aides in recent months -- at a stop in Bedford, where she told several dozen voters that she and her husband had tried to be transparent because it is important for the public to see every aspect of a candidate.

"If we don't know who people are inside, if we don't trust their instincts and understand where they're coming from, then we can't follow them, which is why we've tried to be so open and clear about who we are and how we think," she said.

Despite heightened security for the Obamas -- the Secret Service assigned them a detail last week, the earliest a presidential candidate has been given added security -- Michelle Obama promised that voters will see their two young daughters on the campaign trail.

She also said she campaigns "not just as a surrogate messenger but also as a surrogate ear."

"I view these trips as an opportunity for me to get a better sense of what's happening on the ground," she said. She took no questions during the day, instead circulating in the crowd and talking to voters one by one.

-- Anne E. Kornblut

Democratic Field for Ky. Governor Narrows

State Treasurer Jonathan Miller (D) dropped out of this year's Kentucky governor's race and quickly threw his support behind former lieutenant governor Steve Beshear.

Miller went with early television ads in an attempt to distinguish himself from the crowded field of Democrats, but they drained his campaign financially and did not move his poll numbers. At the end of last month, he had just $187,000 in the bank.

Miller's departure should give Beshear a boost heading into the May 22 primary. Polling shows Beshear, 2003 gubernatorial candidate Bruce Lunsford and former lieutenant governor Steve Henry with a legitimate shot to win the Democratic nomination. If no candidate takes 40 percent of the vote, the two top vote-getters will advance to a June 26 runoff.

Republicans will also have a competitive primary, between Gov. Ernie Fletcher and former congresswoman Anne M. Northup.

-- Chris Cillizza

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