CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- First Lady Michelle Obama portrayed her husband Tuesday night as a man who understands the values and struggles of everyday Americans, has always lived by their standards, and has used these ideals as the pillars of his presidency.
"You see, even though back then Barack was a senator, and a presidential candidate, to me he was still the guy who'd picked me up for our dates in a car that was so rusted out, I could actually see the pavement going by through a hole in the passenger side door," Mrs. Obama said. "He was the guy whose proudest possession was a coffee table he'd found in a dumpster, and whose only pair of decent shoes was a half size too small."
In the process, she was drawing an implied but dramatic contrast between President Obama's background, which occasionally involved adversity and personal setbacks, with that of Republican challenger Mitt Romney, a son of privilege and a mega-millionaire who has had trouble connecting with everyday people.
With ebullience and good cheer, Mrs. Obama told personal stories, some funny and some inspirational, of her husband's past and her own background that were certainly familiar to millions of people who supported his presidential candidacy in 2008 but may have faded from memory. Now those stories could be important again in boosting is prospects for re-election.
Mrs. Obama's goals were clear--in addition to expressing her admiration and love for her husband, she was reinforcing the idea, promoted often by the president's political advisers, that he best represents the interests of Middle American while Romney is hopelessly out of touch. Now those stories could be important in boosting his prospects for re-election.
"Barack and I were both raised by families who didn't have much in the way of money or material possessions but who had given us something far more valuable--their unconditional love, their unflinching sacrifice, and the chance to go places they had never imagined for themselves."
"Barack was raised by a single mother who struggled to pay the bills, and by grandparents who stepped in when she needed help," the first lady said softly. "...Barack knows the American Dream because he's lived it...and he wants eveyone in this country to have that same opportunity, no matter who we are, or where we're from, or what we look like, or who we love."
She offered glimpses into the president's life behind the scenes in the East Wing, where the Obamas reside. She talked about how her husband hunches over his desk late at night, "poring over the letters people have sent him. The letter from the father struggling to pay his bills...from the woman dying of cancer whose insurance company won't cover her care...from the young person with so much promise but so few opportunities....I see how those stories, our colleciion of struggles and hopes and dreams, I see how that's what drives Barack Obama every single day."
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Ken Walsh covers the White House and politics for U.S. News. He writes a daily blog, "Ken Walsh's Washington," for usnews.com, and is the author of "The Presidency" column for the U.S. News Weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Facebook and Twitter.