By Clay Waters ~
Hillary Clinton may be slipping in the polls of late, but she has one huge asset in her corner, according to Monday’s New York Times: Michelle Obama. Reporter Julie Hirschfeld Davis profiled the First Lady in “Michelle Obama to Lend an Asset to Clinton: Voters’ Trust.” The text box: “Putting the first lady’s popularity to work for the campaign.”
In 2014 Davis bragged about Obama’s intellectual dinner talks in Europe, summed up in a text box as “Freewheeling events, with conversations about architecture, art and literature,” and sent him into 2016 brimming over with “accomplishments.”
This time it was the First Lady’s turn for the soft pillow treatment:
Michelle Obama has bridled for years at the confines of life in the White House and has tried to steer clear of the partisan messiness that has consumed her husband and is fueling this year’s bare-knuckled presidential contest.
But this week, Mrs. Obama will wade into the campaign fray on behalf of Hillary Clinton, putting her broad popularity and reputation for authenticity to work for a candidate who has suffered from a lack of both.
At an event in northern Virginia on Friday, Mrs. Obama will urge voters to register ahead of the state’s Oct. 17 deadline, the first of what aides say will be a series of appearances in the coming weeks in support of Mrs. Clinton.
Mrs. Obama’s steps into the campaign spotlight underscore her transformation from a once-reluctant political spouse into a confident public figure, a role she says she has embraced more fully during President Obama’s second term.
Mrs. Obama’s communications director, Caroline Adler Morales, said the first lady’s focus would be on encouraging voters in swing states, particularly young people and African-Americans, to register and vote.
Mrs. Obama has never had much affection for the campaign trail, and has spoken openly about trying to persuade her husband not to run for president and her struggles adapting to the scrutiny and obligations of political life. She has strictly limited her appearances at political events during Mr. Obama’s time in office, agreeing to them only when she believes her presence could have a major impact on a race.
That, Mrs. Clinton’s advisers say, enhances the first lady’s effectiveness as a voice for their candidate. She is widely known and liked by Americans — her approval rating was at 58 percent in July, according to Gallup — but seen as removed from politics and partisanship.
The first lady has also demonstrated a knack for using pop culture and social media to appeal to the core coalition that propelled her husband to the White House — young voters, minorities and single women. Those elements will also be part of her push for Mrs. Clinton, aides said, though they declined to detail her itinerary because it is still developing.
That is the part of her job that Mrs. Obama has always said she relishes the most. Unlike Mrs. Clinton, a politics junkie and policy wonk who as first lady wanted an office in the West Wing and led Bill Clinton’s health care task force, Mrs. Obama has avoided hard-edged debates. She has instead prioritized more universally popular causes such as her “Let’s Move” campaign for healthy eating and exercise…
Davis skipped the unpopularity of Obama’s stringent, calorie-restrictive school lunch guidelines that have resulted in unappetizing meals that often go straight into the trash bin, and claimed that Michelle Obama had heroically picked up her “formidable” political gifts despite her own emotional resistance.
Still, almost in spite of herself, she has become a formidable force in the campaign.
“She has never loved politics very much, and I don’t think she does right now, but she happens to have become a very savvy politician,” said Myra Gutin, a communications professor at Rider University whose research focuses on first ladies.