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Michelle Obama Tries to Reignite Dem Passion

By Erin McPike - September 19, 2012

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For what it’s worth, the first lady’s stump speeches in the past two weeks have been 25 to 30 minutes in length; Romney, by contrast, tends to speak for about 15 minutes.

According to a report by the Associated Press in Tallahassee, “Mrs. Obama was wildly received by a crowd that was largely made up of students from Florida A&M and Florida State universities. She was often drowned out by cheers as she talked about her husband’s accomplishments, possibly the loudest when she said the health care overhaul he signed into law will allow people to remain on their parents’ health insurance plans until they’re 25.”

At times, and certainly when joined by Ryan, Romney has benefited from raucous crowds, too, but he did not elicit the volume or sustained applause in Fairfax that the first lady got in Fredericksburg.

RCP spoke to several students and former students at the University of Mary Washington who were motivated by the first lady. Kathlean Davis, 21, said attending the speech inspired her to do what Mrs. Obama had implored her audience to do: Talk to her friends who weren’t registered to vote and badger them to do so.

A recent graduate of the college named Erica (who declined to provide her last name because she now works for the school), said she voted for the president in Maryland in 2008 but hadn’t registered to vote in Virginia. Before the first lady spoke, she said she hadn’t paid much attention to politics in the past several years but was keeping an open mind about whether she would vote and for whom she would cast it. When RCP caught up with her afterward, she called the first lady “phenomenal,” said she was newly inspired about the president because the first lady had explained his character, and said she would be registering and voting for Obama in her new state.

Analysts have wondered aloud whether likability would be enough to re-elect the president this fall. But the campaign knows that the 2008 passion for “hope and change” is tempered by the lackluster job market facing college graduates. And yet, as the Obama campaign stealthily dispatches the first lady to college campus after campus, she might be reigniting that effect. 

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Erin McPike is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at emcpike@realclearpolitics.com. Follow her on Twitter @ErinMcPike.

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