For Michelle Obama, a New Image but an Old Role

National Journal
First Lady Michelle Obama waves as she appears at the podium for a camera test on the stage at the Democratic National Convention inside Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, N.C., on Monday, Sept. 3, 2012. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
.

View gallery

When Michelle Obama spoke at the 2008 Democratic National Convention, she was warily viewed as a woman proud of her country “for the first time” and caricatured by The New Yorker as an Afroed and armed rebel soldier.

Four years later, she’s now better known as the fashionista first lady who tells us to eat our vegetables.

While President Obama was steadily losing favor over the last four years, his wife was undergoing a successful public makeover. In keeping with tradition, the first lady has mostly steered clear of politics to focus on feel-good projects such as outreach to military families, organic gardening, and efforts to fight childhood obesity. Voters have seen her competing against talk-show hosts Ellen DeGeneres and Jimmy Fallon in friendly push-up contests and gracing a coffee-table book holding a basket overflowing with fresh produce.

But although Michelle Obama’s public image has changed, the goal of her convention speech on Tuesday isn’t much different than it was four years ago. Like Ann Romney did for her husband last week in Tampa, a spouse’s job is to bring out the candidate’s softer side. Nobody knows a husband better than his wife.

“She will help remind voters why they like Barack Obama as a person, and you can’t underestimate how valuable that is,” said Democratic political analyst Mary Anne Marsh. “That is the saving grace of this election, so it’s a big assignment for her.”

Michelle Obama could be particularly persuasive with undecided voters, who tend to be female, and she’s a more familiar figure than Ann Romney. “It will be very hard for Ann Romney to become as well-known and well-liked in what’s left of this campaign as Michelle Obama has over the last five years,” Marsh added.

A Gallup Poll in May found that 66 percent of Americans have a positive view of the first lady, unchanged from two years ago. Her appeal was slightly higher, at 72 percent, at the beginning of her husband’s administration.

During the 2008 campaign, her favorability rating never surpassed 54 percent. In her convention speech, she sought to reassure voters that she shared their patriotism by declaring, “I love this country.” She also tried to bring her husband’s image down to earth, describing how slowly the nervous new father drove when they brought their first daughter home from the hospital.

Voters can expect those kinds of personal touches on Tuesday, but it’s unclear how much they matter to voters who may be out of jobs and patience. Polls show that Americans already like Obama better than Romney but disapprove of his handling of the economy.

“She’ll talk about what a great husband and father he is, and there’s no disputing that, but there’s also no disputing that he’s a failed president,” said Republican consultant Alice Stewart. “The numbers don’t lie. This is not a popularity contest.”

Sorry you didn't like this comment. Please provide a reason below.

Are you sure?
Rating failed. Try again.
Request failed. Try again.
We will promote constructive and witty comments to the top, so everyone sees them!
Sorry, we can’t load comments right now. Try again.

    Recommended for You

    • The internet roasts a photo of Donald Trump writing his inauguration speech

      When times get tough, at least you can still meme. President-elect Donald Trump is slated to deliver his inauguration address on Friday, so he teased his Twitter followers with a little behind-the-scenes photo of himself writing a speech at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. SEE ALSO: Don's Johns: Port-a-potties get censored for Trump’s inauguration Writing my inaugural address at the Winter White House, Mar-a-Lago, three weeks ago. Looking forward to Friday. #Inauguration pic.twitter.com/S701FdTCQu — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 18, 2017 The staged photo and Trump's cold, dead gaze sent the internet straight into "meme mode alpha," where it was pointed out that Trump was actually holding Sharpie marker, which may or may not actually be closed. @realDonaldTrump that is a blank piece of paper and you're holding a closed sharpie pic.twitter.com/ekCcH8eTXe — Jules Suzdaltsev (@jules_su) January 18, 2017 @cajunmonkey439 @realDonaldTrump It is *obviously* a sharpie. pic.twitter.com/gdD2AUhBKX — Jules Suzdaltsev (@jules_su) January 18, 2017 .@realDonaldTrump pic.twitter.com/8CSroNshBR — XpeK (@peKofX) January 18, 2017 Surprised that you didn't just use this photo as your epic, bigly speech pic.twitter.com/SezwzToFg4 — Roland Scahill (@rolandscahill) January 18, 2017 good job @realDonaldTrump pic.twitter.com/Ioj869Tfy3 — uhhh (@_uhhhhhhh) January 18, 2017 pic.twitter.com/pAKcXAEAkD — Sam Grittner (@SamGrittner) January 18, 2017 @realDonaldTrump #NotMyPresident #TheResistance #conflict #Putin #Inauguration In house security cam Mar a Lago pic.twitter.com/diwnpjAS3F — Beo Bachter (@kaysintBB) January 18, 2017 Early draft of Donald Trump’s inauguration speech. #TrumpSpeech #MyFirstWordsAsPresident #MAGA pic.twitter.com/qgo1glv5cG — Tom ❄️ (@TommieWho) January 18, 2017 Exclusive sneak peek at Trump's inauguration speech! pic.twitter.com/6W6ex0Ks3z — Kara Calavera (@KaraCalavera) January 18, 2017 Trump's Inaugural address leaked... pic.twitter.com/J8soJQ4Ira — Jordan Uhl (@JordanUhl) January 18, 2017 Exclusive: #Trump's Inauguration speech leaked! #TrumpInaugural #trumpgrammar pic.twitter.com/XzrXXpnjxD — Gerry Stergiopoulos (@GerryGreek) January 18, 2017 According to CNN, Trump did write his inauguration speech himself. BONUS: NBD, just a massive alligator out for a stroll

      Mashable
    • Cancer Patient Who Did 'Juju on That Beat' During Chemo in Viral Video Dies

      Ana-Alecia Ayala, who made headlines in October for dancing up a storm during chemotherapy treatments, has died after a year-long battle against cancer.

      Inside Edition
    • Documents: Woman knew for months she'd been stolen at birth

      An 18-year-old who was kidnapped as an infant discovered months ago that she had been raised by her abductor under an assumed name, court documents show.

      Associated Press
    • Fla. Slayings Suspect Hurls Expletives at Judge

      A suspect in a Fla. police officer's slaying directed expletive-laced outbursts at a judge during his initial hearing Thursday on charges that he also killed his pregnant ex-girlfriend and her unborn child. (Jan. 19)

      Associated Press Videos
    • Everything We Think We Know About the Upcoming Ford Bronco and Ranger

      Ford promises a new small pickup truck and a return of the legendary Bronco name. Here's what to expect.

      Road & Track
    • Foreclosed mall once valued at $190M is auctioned for $100

      TARENTUM, Pa. (AP) — A Pennsylvania mall that was foreclosed on after its owners failed to repay $143 million has been auctioned off for $100.

      Associated Press
    • Ex-president George H.W. Bush moved to intensive care; wife hospitalized

      Bush, who at 92 is the nation's oldest living ex-president, has been at Houston Methodist Hospital since Saturday after experiencing shortness of breath, family spokesman Jim McGrath said on Wednesday. Since then, Bush experienced an "acute respiratory problem stemming from pneumonia" and was sedated for the unspecified procedure, his office said.

      Reuters
    • Durant dazzles against former Oklahoma City team once more

      OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Russell Westbrook promised to pay back Zaza Pachulia for a hard foul.

      Associated Press
    • When presidential inaugurations go very, very wrong

      As Constitution Daily counts down to Inauguration Day, we look back at three presidential ceremonies from the 1800s that ended very badly.

      National Constitution Center
    • Donald Trump Is Already Tweeting Us Into War with North Korea

      The next president has managed to put himself on a collision course with Pyongyang. Can he cut a deal to stop it?

      Foreign Policy Magazine
    • A Family's Fight: Mom and Her 1-Year-Old Daughter Battling Cancer Together

      She wasn't expecting her own diagnosis, much less her daughter's.

      Inside Edition
    • Giant Florida Gator Is Not For Tourists, Nature Preserve Staff Warn

      Officials for the county's natural resources division said, although, they appreciate the attention the nature reserve has been getting, they are also worried about the safety of visitors and wildlife.

      International Business Times
    • U.S. appeals court voids Chicago gun range limits

      A three-judge panel of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday said Chicago violated the Second Amendment by restricting gun ranges to manufacturing areas, and banning them from close proximity to residential areas, schools, places of worship and other gun ranges. It said Chicago failed to justify its "extraordinarily broad" claim that minors could not enter gun ranges, and that teenagers can be taught to shoot guns safely.

      Reuters
    • Virginia man convicted of 2006 slaying of family is executed

      JARRATT, Va. (AP) — A man convicted of killing a family of four, slashing their throats and setting their home ablaze after they left their front door open while preparing for a New Year's Day party in 2006, was executed Wednesday.

      Associated Press
    • Fatal Autopilot crash wasn’t Tesla’s fault, investigators decide

      The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has closed its six-month-old investigation into the fatal crash of a Tesla Model S , which was being driven by the Autopilot system when it collided with a truck last May. The NHTSA will not seek a recall of Tesla's vehicles, and the report said that the agency's examination "did not identify any defects in the design or performance of the Automatic Emergency Braking or Autopilot systems." The crash occurred on a highway in Florida on May 7th last year. The Tesla was being driven a few miles per hour over the speed limit in the left lane of a two-way highway, when a truck with a trailer turned across both lanes towards an exit. The Tesla's radar and cameras failed to pick up the trailer, and the Tesla drove directly into the side of it, killing the driver. Since the accident, Tesla has updated its semi-autonomous Autopilot feature to force drivers to be more hands-on, and treat it like a driving aid rather than an actual Autopilot. Despite the name, Tesla says that Autopilot is still a beta feature that requires drivers to monitor the road just like normal.New Tesla cars also have an updated version of the Autopilot with more sensors, which should prevent a similar accident from happening again. Despite the one fatal crash, Autopilot is statistically safer than human drivers. According to Tesla, Autopiloted vehicles have driven over 200 million miles by this point, with just one fatality. The average for human-driven vehicles is one fatality every 94 million miles, although the numbers are probably skewed a little, as a Tesla is safer than the average car in a crash, and the majority of Autopiloted miles will be driven on divided highways, which are safer than regular roads.

      BGR News
    • Roethlisberger hoping to play up to Brady's "gold standard"

      Ben Roethlisberger intended for the moment to be private. The camera following him to midfield and the microphone tucked inside Tom Brady's shoulder pads ended up making that impossible. Their brief exchange ...

      Associated Press
    • Iran Shocked by Deadly Fire, Collapse of Tehran High-Rise

      A historic high-rise building in the heart of Iran's capital caught fire and later collapsed, killing at least 30 firefighters and leaving their stunned colleagues and bystanders weeping in the streets

      ABC News q
    • Deadly snow avalanche hits hotel in earthquake-stricken central Italy (15 photos)

      Rescue workers were met with an eerie silence Thursday when they reached a four-star spa hotel struck by an avalanche in a mountainous earthquake-stricken region of central Italy. At least 30 people were missing, including at least two children, authorities said. Guests at the three-story Hotel Rigopiano in the central Abruzzo region alerted emergency workers of the disaster on Wednesday, following a series of quakes in the region. “Help, we’re dying of cold,” one couple wrote rescuers, according to the ANSA news agency. Another man, identified by news reports as Fabio Salzetta, sent a SMS message saying he had escaped with a maintenance worker, but that others were trapped inside. Corriere della Sera quoted the text message as saying: “Some walls were knocked down.” And: “I’m outside with a maintenance worker but you can’t see anything of the hotel, there’s only a wall of snow in front of me.” When rescuers on skis arrived in the early morning hours of Thursday, they found just two people alive, according to news reports. Civil protection authorities said that 30 people were missing. The ANSA news agency quoted a rescuer as saying that there were fatalities, but details weren’t immediately available. Just one body was reported removed from the hotel by late morning Thursday. (AP) See more news-related photo galleries and follow us on Yahoo News Photo Tumblr .

      Yahoo News Photo Staff
    • Trump asks some 50 senior Obama appointees to stay on

      WASHINGTON (AP) — President-elect Donald Trump has asked roughly 50 senior Obama administration appointees to remain in their posts after his inauguration to ensure continuity in government, his incoming White House press secretary said Thursday.

      Associated Press 19 min ago
    • North Korea's Kim Jong Un Is So Fat He Might Have Hurt His Ankle Again

      Kim's leg injuries have been linked to obesity in the past and recent pictures show the Korean leader appears to have put on extra weight. 

      International Business Times