Never mind the President's slumping poll numbers. Never mind the high unemployment rate and the slow economic recovery. Never mind the fact that some Democrats don't want to be seen on the same stage with President Obama. There's still Michelle Obama. And the White House plans to make full use of the first lady's popularity on the campaign trail over the next few months.
What kind of campaign will she wage?
The Los Angeles Times, citing an unnamed White House official, reports that Michelle Obama's campaign message will be "largely upbeat." The report says she'll shy away from a highly partisan approach to campaigning because she "would risk antagonizing hard-won allies" in her anti-obesity campaign. The report also says Obama's schedule will include about three days of campaigning for each week after Labor Day.
"She's a much safer figure to campaign with," says Democratic strategist Bob Beckel, "Although the President can raise more money." Some Democrats have chosen not to appear with the President this campaign season because of his sinking poll numbers and the sluggish economy.
Earlier this month, the Democratic gubernatorial candidates in Georgia and Texas failed to show up when President Obama spoke at local fundraisers.
Joanna Burgos, spokeswoman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, says, "The fact that the White House is enlisting their most popular surrogate only goes to show that House Democrats are in for the fight of their lives this November."
Despite her widely-criticized luxury vacation in Spain earlier this month, the first lady's poll numbers remain higher than her husband's. In a Wall Street Journal/NBC poll conducted amidst the negative publicity from that trip, Michelle Obama was viewed positively by 50 percent. True, 64 percent viewed her favorably in the same survey in April, but her approval rating is still three points higher than the president's.
Michelle Obama didn't always enjoy a sterling image. During the 2008 campaign she was sometimes depicted as an angry black radical. On top of that she famously said of her husband's campaign that "For the first time in my adult life, I'm proud of my country."
"She's done a magnificent job of rehabilitating her image," says Beckel. "Her favorabilities are hard-earned and the recent flap over her trip to Spain won't have any impact in the long term."
As for the "upbeat" message Mrs. Obama is expected to bring to the campaign trail, Beckel says first ladies are always the ones to project a more positive campaign image. He says the hard-edged, partisan warfare is usually left to the president, the vice president and their surrogates.
Even some conservative observers think Michelle Obama can be an effective campaigner for the White House. "The First Lady is charismatic and popular," says Matt Lewis of Politics Daily, "She can turn out the base and fire up the crowd."
But, Lewis points out, "There's a potential downside if she says something controversial or is drawn into some debate she doesn't want to get into."
Michelle Obama at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida on Saturday, Aug. 14. (Fox News Photo)
Steve Centanni currently serves a Washington-based national correspondent for Fox News Channel (FNC). He joined FNC in 1996 as a general news reporter. Click here for more information on Steve Centanni.