Michelle Obama Tries to Reignite Dem Passion

Michelle Obama Tries to Reignite Dem Passion

By Erin McPike - September 19, 2012

Despite mounting problems this week for Mitt Romney's candidacy, a still constant theme in the 2012 presidential election is that enthusiasm for Barack Obama is lacking compared to four years ago. Voters aren't swooning over the calm, collected man who is now the president the way they were when he was a fresh new candidate. And as far as young voters are concerned, well, you only have your first crush once.

Enter Michelle Obama.

Obama campaign officials insist that the nation’s self-described “mom-in-chief” is busy at home and will keep her campaign schedule on the moderate side. She’s the most popular person in the Obama administration, and they want to keep it that way, lest she appear too political. And yet, as the campaign season enters its final stretch, perhaps the most active public campaigner along the campaign trail is none other than the first lady.

According to her campaign aides, Mrs. Obama currently clocks about three days of campaign travel per week and typically holds two public events per travel day. On those occasions, she may add an unannounced and shorter third stop. On Wednesday, she’s scheduled to visit two mid-sized college campuses in North Carolina (North Carolina Central University in Durham and East Carolina University in Greenville) after touring two big-college towns in Florida on Monday and two regions of Virginia last Thursday.

“She is a huge and effective asset for the campaign,” says Democratic strategist Michael Feldman. “She is the single most popular surrogate for the president and the ultimate validator on his strongest attributes as a husband and a father.”

Noting what has gone under the radar while the media fixate on Romney-Obama campaign battles, Feldman added, “While the national media is focused on the president, she travels to key markets around the country energizing and activating voters and saturating the key media markets in electoral battlegrounds.”

It’s also worth noting how Mrs. Obama’s events compare to Romney’s. She’s drawing crowds that are usually as large -- and in many cases, larger -- than her husband’s rival can muster (and sometimes even outdraws the president). Suddenly, she is holding just as many public events as Romney (whose schedule has been heavy with private fundraisers), her stump speeches are lengthier and are drawing bigger reactions from the crowds.

On the same day Romney attracted some 2,500 supporters to an outdoor rally in Fairfax, a northern Virginia suburb, the first lady traveled outside the Washington metropolitan region to Fredericksburg, attracting about 2,100 supporters to a rally inside a gymnasium at the University of Mary Washington.

According to a report by NBC News, about 8,850 people attended her rally in Tallahassee on Monday. The area is one of the most densely Democratic areas in the state, to be sure, and Romney hasn’t held an event in Florida’s capital in months. She drew an eye-popping 10,750 the same day at the University of Florida in Gainesville. But two days after his nominating convention wrapped up in the state, Romney and running mate Paul Ryan drew a crowd just half that size to a joint rally at Jacksonville Landing.

On Friday, Romney drew roughly 3,000 supporters to Painesville, Ohio. The first lady got an audience that big to hear her more than a month ago in West Philadelphia, Pa.

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

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