Obamas get personal as a way to get election votes

Associated Press
FILE - In this Aug. 15, 2012, file photo President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama  campaign together in Dubuque, Iowa. The first couple have have been frequently sharing personal tidbits on the campaign trail, seeking to remind people of one big reason they voted for Obama in the first place: most people like him personally. Obama talks about his single mother's struggles, tells voters he misses his wife when they're apart, and she tells voters he's still cute, even with gray hair. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

View gallery

WASHINGTON (AP) — He talks about his single mother and the grandmother who helped raise him. He tells voters he misses his wife when they're apart. She tells voters he's still cute, even with gray hair.

President Barack Obama and the first lady are frequently sharing personal tidbits on the campaign trail, seeking to remind people of one big reason they voted for him in the first place — a lot of them like him personally — while countering Republican rival Mitt Romney's assertions that the president is running on division and hate.

"Your president is the son of a single mother who struggled to put herself through school and pay the bills," Mrs. Obama said Wednesday, taking the stage before her husband in Iowa. "He's the grandson of a woman who woke up before dawn every day to catch a bus to her job at a bank."

Not that it's become simply a campaign of uplifting family stories.

With polls showing a close race less than three months before the election, Obama also has been pummeling Romney with negative television ads. He mocks Romney's tax policies. And he declines to denounce an ad from an outside group supporting him that suggests Romney was at least partially responsible for a woman's cancer death.

In response, Romney recently accused Obama of running a campaign based on "division and attack and hatred." It was an attempt to both fire up the GOP base and undercut Obama in the fight for undecided voters who could determine the outcome in close states.

Polls show voters view Obama as more likable than Romney, potentially a big help to an incumbent saddled with a sluggish national economy and an 8.3 percent unemployment rate. So Romney is likely to keep trying to chip away at the president's personal appeal. And the Obamas will encourage Americans to stay behind a president many of them still admire.

To that end, the Obamas have been emphasizing anew the president's roots, especially elements that voters can relate to and that he's long used to connect with them.

But the Obamas have tweaked their telling of the president's personal narrative to fit the economic times. The campaigns are well aware of polls that indicate voters believe Obama better understands their economic problems, even though they say Romney would be better at managing the economy.

Thus, the Obamas have less to say about the improbable journey of a boy born in Hawaii to a white woman from Kansas and a black man from Kenya. Instead, they tell stories that go to the heart of middle class economic struggles.

Obama says that when he meets a single mom, he thinks about his own mother who, "even though she didn't have money and she only had the support of her parents — my grandparents — she was able to put herself through school, work at the same time and still give her kids a great education."

Meeting a military veteran, he says, reminds him of his grandfather who fought in World War II and "was able to go to college on the GI Bill. And my grandparents were able to buy their first home with an FHA loan."

The first lady, who has been campaigning across the country on her own for much of the summer, offers anecdotes about her upbringing on Chicago's South Side. Standing alongside her husband this week, she said: "Barack knows what it means when a family struggles. This is not a hypothetical for him."

The family stories also could suggest a comparison with Romney, who was raised by a wealthy automobile executive turned Michigan governor before amassing a fortune of his own.

While Romney speaks warmly of his father, he has few anecdotes about his upbringing in his campaign speeches. The Republican has a similarly warm rapport on the campaign trail with his wife, Ann, whom he affectionately refers to as his "sweetheart."

His five sons are among his most prominent surrogates, helping with stories about his penchant for pulling pranks and with the pictures they post on Twitter of the candidate and his grandchildren.

And Mrs. Romney has proven to be her husband's top defender.

It's the same for Mrs. Obama, whose approval ratings far exceed her husband's.

After Romney charged that Obama was running a campaign of hate, the first lady walked on stage with her husband hand in hand in Dubuque, Iowa.

He lamented having been away from her for five days, and he drew applause when he said that while he may not be a perfect president, "I do think she is a perfect first lady."

She, in turn, offered a vigorous defense of his character.

"It all boils down to who you are and what you stand for," Mrs. Obama said. "We all know who my husband is, don't we? And we all know what he stands for."


AP Deputy Director of Polling Jennifer Agiesta contributed to this report.


Follow Julie Pace at http://twitter.com/jpaceDC .

View Comments (738)

Recommended for You

  • Police officer shot after responding to wrong home

    ATLANTA (AP) — A police officer was shot and critically wounded Monday when he responded to a call of a suspicious person and showed up at the wrong house, authorities said.

    Associated Press
  • Man sentenced to life with no parole walks free in Missouri

    JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A man sentenced to life in prison without parole on a marijuana-related charge walked out of a Missouri prison a free man on Tuesday, after spending two decades behind bars.

    Associated Press
  • Woman Becoming Nun Needs Friend's Interest, Not Concern

    DEAR ABBY: I was best friends with "Joanne" after we met in middle school. She comes from a conservative Christian family and has three successful siblings. This has made her quirky, media-driven pursuits and city life a disappointment to her family. When we were teens and she learned that I was a…

    Dear Abby
  • Video of Israeli soldier arresting boy becomes latest in war of perception

    A soldier pins a boy down and is assaulted by his family: The scene might have gone unnoticed if not for footage that has turned it into another weapon in the Israel-Palestinian war of perception. Palestinians see it as proof of Israel's abuses in the occupied West Bank, while many Israelis say the…

  • Sheriff: Suspect kills mother, stepfather, grandmother

    Outfitted in camouflage and armed with a high-powered rifle and 100 rounds of ammunition, Robert Seth Denton fatally shot his mother, stepfather and grandmother while six children witnessed the carnage in the family's double-wide mobile home in eastern Tennessee, a sheriff said Monday.

    Associated Press
  • Play

    Woman was getting high on canned air at Kansas Walmart, police say

    Melissa Ann Wright is accused of huffing an industrial strength duster chemical while shopping at a Kansas area Walmart.

    KTRK – Houston
  • Big guns in east Ukraine fall silent, two more die from wounds in Kiev protests

    Sporadic shelling and shooting, which each side has blamed on the other, had ensured a steadily mounting death toll despite the ceasefire called as part of a peace plan worked out in Minsk, Belarus, in February. More than 6,500 people have been killed since a separatist rebellion erupted there in…

  • Want a New North Face Bella Luna Down Jacket?

    Stay warm in style this season. Get a huge selection of women's North Face Bella Luna down jackets at NexTag!

  • Obama slams 'completely unacceptable' cop killing

    President Barack Obama vowed Monday to push for police officer safety after a Texas sheriff's deputy was gunned down from behind and shot multiple times at close range. Darren Goforth, 47, was killed late Friday in the Houston area, and local officials have blamed ramped-up rhetoric against police…

  • Daughter Deep In Debt Needs Counseling, Not More Money

    DEAR ABBY: Three years ago I gave my adult daughter, married with a child, more than $16,000 to help pay off her debts because she couldn't pay her bills. She and her husband maintain separate accounts, which I find odd. He pays certain expenses; she pays others. Now I find she's deep in debt again…

    Dear Abby
  • This versatile 15-in-1 Travel Jacket is Kickstarter’s most funded piece of clothing at $7.2M

    Remember the MacGyver Travel Jacket that has 15 compartments that each have their own designated functions? It turns out that so many people loved the idea of having such a “smart” jacket that the project became the most funded piece of clothing in Kickstarter history, topping $7.2 million in…

    BGR News
  • Women are not getting treated for menopausal symptoms

    By Roxanne Nelson (Reuters Health) - Many women with severe menopausal symptoms are not being treated for them even though safe, effective remedies are available, a study from Australia suggests. The findings may be applicable to other countries, too, according to senior author Dr. Susan R. Davis…

  • Missouri man faces execution for raping, killing 15-year-old

    ST. LOUIS (AP) — An inmate scheduled to be executed Tuesday for killing a 15-year-old Missouri girl has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to halt his punishment, saying the death penalty is unconstitutional.

    Associated Press
  • Investigators: Arizona woman acknowledges drowning twin sons

    PHOENIX (AP) — An Arizona woman told investigators that she drowned her 2-year-old twin sons and tried to kill her 3-year-old stepbrother in the same way because she didn't want them to live with the difficulties she faces.

    Associated Press
  • Play

    Texas Racing Commission orders Sam Houston Race Park to close its doors

    The park's imminent closure comes as a result of the battle happening at the Texas Legislature over how much money to give the Texas Racing Commission after it recently approved a controversial form of gambling.

    KTRK – Houston
  • Hiring Now: Courier Jobs

    232 New Courier Jobs Now Available! Find Full Time Courier Jobs Today.

  • Boko Haram killers on horseback massacre nearly 80 in NE Nigeria

    Suspected Boko Haram gunmen on horseback shot dead nearly 80 people in attacks on three villages in Nigeria's restive northeast at the weekend, a vigilante and residents told AFP on Monday. Babakura Kolo, a vigilante fighting Boko Haram, said 68 people were killed in the attack on Baanu village in…

  • Sword-wielding Patel crusader threatens Modi's 'model' in India

    By Rupam Jain Nair AHMEDABAD, India (Reuters) - A sword-wielding 22-year-old activist has emerged overnight as the most pressing political threat to Narendra Modi, accusing the Indian prime minister of breaking a promise to provide jobs that helped him win last year's general election. Hardik…

  • Japan arrests 'Flipper' trainer as dolphin hunt starts

    Japanese police said Tuesday they had arrested US animal rights activist Ric O'Barry, who trained dolphins for the TV show "Flipper", near the town of Taiji as it kicked off its controversial dolphin hunt. "We had a report that he was drinking alcohol and driving, so officers were dispatched to…