Michelle Obama hits campaign trail for Democrats

The first lady is No. 1 on Forbes Magazine's list of the most powerful women.
By Nia -Malika Henderson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 13, 2010; 9:34 PM

In her first campaign swing for the November elections, first lady Michelle Obama made the political personal, harking back to her days growing up in Chicago, recalling the electricity of the 2008 presidential campaign and telling an audience of Democratic donors that her understanding of the issues of the day comes down to her role as a mother.

"You see, more than anything else, I come at this stuff, more, as a mom," she said Wednesday in Wisconsin. "When I think about the issues facing our nation, I think about what it means. And I think about what it means for the world we're leaving for them and for all our children.As I travel around this country, and look into the eyes of every single child I meet, I see clearly what's at stake."

Her remarks marked her first full foray into the midterm campaign and came in a state where Sen. Russ Feingold (D) is battling Republican Ron Johnson to keep his seat. While Feingold is ahead in fundraising, his popularity has lagged in most polls.

Held at the U.S. Cellular center in downtown Milwaukee, the event attracted about 500 people who paid $250 to $500 for a ticket.

In her speech, which ran about 20 minutes, Obama took a page from her address two years ago at the Democratic National Convention, mentioning her family and the president's remarks that "we all want to leave something better for our kids."

"I know that was true in my family growing up. That's why even after my dad was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, he hardly ever missed a day of work. . . . My dad kept getting up . . . because he wanted something better for me and my brother," she said. "And it was also true in Barack's family.That's why Barack's grandmother woke up before dawn each morning to catch the bus to her job at a bank. And even when she was passed over for promotions year after year because she was a woman, she rarely complained . . . because she wanted something more for Barack and his sister."

The first lady repeatedly used her husband's first name in her speech, in an attempt to humanize him for the audience. And she and the president have often used personal experience to make a political point. President Obama used an anecdote about his mother's death from cancer when calling for health insurance legislation. The first lady has referred to her daughters when discussing her anti-childhood-obesity campaign, and she recalled her youth when she spoke before the International Olympic Committee last year in pushing to bring the 2016 Games to her home town.

She described Feingold, first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1992, as someone who has "stood up for health insurance reform" and campaign finance reform. "And he's fought to create jobs and cut taxes for working folks."

But she was also careful to cast Feingold, who has been linked to Obama administration policies, as an independent voice.

"When my husband was here in Wisconsin a couple of weeks ago, he talked about how independent and outspoken Russ is . . . and how Russ doesn't always agree with him," she said. "So, Russ, that's something that you and I have in common."

Feingold, who was greeted with cheers of "Russ, Russ, Russ" when he took the stage, urged a similar enthusiasm at the polls.

"We have the momentum," he said. "We are moving in the right direction."

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