Michelle Obama's fall calendar is starting to fill up, much to the delight of Democrats as they try to beat back a Republican surge fueled, largely by the dislike many people have for her husband. Michelle Obama has, to date, campaigned in Georgia for Senate candidate Michelle Nunn and is also set to appear for Iowa Senate candidate, Bruce Braley, Wisconsin gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke and Rep. Mike Michaud, running in a three way race for Maine governor. She has also done 26 events for the Democratic National Committee this year, mostly fundraisers.
"The First Lady has – and will continue to be – a tremendous asset for Democrats on the ballot in November," said Michael Czin, spokesman for the DNC. "She has a unique ability to make what’s at stake in this election crystal clear.”
This is a big change from four years ago when Michelle Obama was a reluctant campaigner, wanting to keep her approval ratings high for her husband rather than possibly squander those ratings on fellow Democrats. Even though the win loss record for candidates she campaigned with in that election ended up being 6-7, Democrats credited her with helping them keep their majority. (In Illinois, the losses were particularly bad, with 3 House losses and 1 in the Senate).
Michelle Obama's biggest attraction and biggest strength is that she is essentially the keeper of the Obama 2008 flame for the Democratic base; she even begins some of her speeches with the "fired up" line from 2008. Here's she is at a voter registration drive for Nunn earlier this month:
So today, when folks ask me whether I still believe everything we said about hope and change back in 2008, look, I tell them that I believe it more strongly than ever before because I’ve seen it with my own eyes. I’ve seen it. I’m out there.
And just think about how different our country looks to children growing up today. Think about how our kids take for granted that a black person or a woman can be President of the United States -- they just take it for granted now. They take for granted that their President will end hurtful policies like “don’t ask, don’t tell,” and speak out for equality for all of our citizens.
Given that, where else could Michelle Obama help drive base turnout. North Carolina and Louisiana are both states with large African American populations and, North Carolina especially, has other key constituencies of the Obama coalition. In North Carolina, for instance, she could appear with Sen. Kay Hagan (D) at any one of that states 11 historically black colleges and universities, tapping into a population that typically drops off in midterms. In a quasi-campaign visit to Louisiana back in May, Michelle appeared with Sen. Mary Landrieu and military spouses, an approach that combines Obama's pet issues with issues that Landrieu has also campaigned on. Colorado could also be on her list. Sen. Mark Udall has been very critical of President Obama over his punt on immigration reform and on his handling of the Islamic State. A visit from Michelle Obama could boost base enthusiasm while side-stepping those more hot-button issues.
Another way Michelle Obama can influence -- albeit in a small way -- elections: Invite kids from key swing Senate states to the White House for events, and gain the kind of local coverage in newspapers that could help out in the last stretch. She's done this before. In the run-up to the Virginia governor's race, for instance, she invited school kids from Richmond, which has a large black population, to the White House garden -- a subtle assist to Terry McAulliffe.
Michelle Obama is Barack Obama without the negatives. And that's why so many Democrats are running from her husband and clamoring for her.