First lady will set the tone for convention with Tuesday night speech

Tuesday, September 4, 2012 - 11:11am

When Michelle Obama takes the stage at the Democratic National Convention on Tuesday night, she faces a similar task as Ann Romney of presenting her husband as a father and family man -- above his public persona in the political spotlight.

The first lady will speak on the convention's opening night, exactly one week after Mrs. Romney delivered what one CNN analyst called "political velvet" -- an address at the GOP convention in Tampa that took her sometimes robotic businessman husband, Mitt Romney, and turned him into a charismatic candidate who will be a champion of working-class Americans.

Michelle Obama has an easier job ahead of her in convincing voters of the president's likability -- his favorability in this area ranks far above that of his GOP opponent. But she still must work to overcome a perception that Obama is a cool and sometimes distant president who has been slow to build relationships outside the White House.

Obama himself fought that image in a recent interview with CNN, saying fatherhood comes first over political schmoozing with Washington dealmakers.

Both Obamas have talked openly about the importance of the family dinner and spending time with their two daughters, 11-year-old Sasha and 14-year-old Malia, outside of the demands of the White House.

For her part, campaign officials say Michelle Obama will help augment the campaign's strategy to use the convention as a way to show "what drives (the president) every day."

Mrs. Obama faces a friendly audience -- she's known as a warm, open first lady whose latest favorability numbers in a CNN/ORC International poll hit 65%.

Just four years ago, she was being portrayed as an Afro-sporting, machine-gun-toting Angela Davis figure fist-bumping her husband in a cartoon on the cover of the New Yorker.

She's built her likeable reputation by tackling such issues as childhood obesity with her "Let's Move!" campaign, holding several high-profile events at the White House and appearing in public service announcements to encourage children and their parents to maintain an active lifestyle. She also started a vegetable garden on the grounds of the executive mansion.

Even her eye for fashion has gained admiration. Mrs. Obama regularly opts to wear cardigans and skirts from such retail chains as J. Crew over high-end designers, putting her on similar shopping grounds as female middle-class voters.

The women's vote is especially key in this election as Democrats work to paint Mitt Romney and the Republican Party as out of touch with female voters.

In a recent interview with Parade magazine, the first lady indicated she'd like to add women's health issues to her list of causes if her husband is elected to a second term.

Mrs. Obama has stepped up in recent days to help fill the void left by her husband's busy campaign schedule, meeting with family members of the victims in the Sikh temple shooting in Wisconsin, stumping for her husband on the campaign trail and calling for volunteers to rally voters in battleground states.

Tuesday night, she'll continue that prominent surrogate role and will try to set the tone for her husband's final push toward Election Day.

 

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