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First Lady In Demand on Campaign Trail

Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images
In places where the president is less popular, some vulnerable Congressional Democrats are hoping for a visit from first lady Michelle Obama to give them a boost.

Many vulnerable Congressional Democrats hope first lady Michelle Obama will campaign for them before November — but they’re not banking on a rally or visit.

“I’ve put in lots of requests,” Sen. Claire McCaskill (Mo.) said in late June. “So far, we haven’t made the cut. But I’ve asked. I’ve repeatedly asked, and I’ll keep asking.”

The popular first lady is fervently
campaigning for her husband’s re-election, holding events every week across the country. She’s proved to be a valuable political asset in his first term — wooing donors and swing voters alike.

But Michelle Obama has not hit the campaign trail for any Congressional candidates yet this cycle, despite frequent visits to states with competitive House and Senate races such as Ohio, Pennsylvania and Illinois.

“She’s a very popular figure,” said former Rep. Tom Davis (Va.), the National Republican Congressional Committee chairman in 2000 and 2002. “She could go into some of these Blue Dog districts. She doesn’t attract the same animosity as” her husband.

The Obama campaign could not yet comment on the first lady’s fall campaign schedule. But Michelle Obama has previously indicated she will limit her campaign activities to three days a week in order to spend time with her children in Washington, D.C.

In 2010, the first lady made a limited number of campaign stops for eight Senate candidates, plus three House candidates in Illinois. She also hosted a fundraising event for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. She did all of these events within three weeks of Election Day.

That hasn’t stopped several Democratic candidates from hoping the first lady will campaign for them.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (Ohio), facing a tough re-election race, said “of course” Michelle Obama would be helpful to his campaign. “We’d love to have both of them in the state,” Brown, who campaigned with the president in Ohio last week, said before the recess.

Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (Wash.) added, “I think she’s a great campaigner, and people respond very well to her.”

Several Democratic Senators facing voters this cycle, such as Debbie Stabenow (Mich.) and Bob Menendez (N.J.), said they, too, would welcome a visit from the first lady.

The demand exists, but will the first lady deliver this fall in the middle of her husband’s tough re-election race?

“It’s not like she’s flying across the country to do something,” said one veteran Democratic operative who requested anonymity in order to speak candidly about the White House. “But if she’s campaigning in Cleveland, she might carve out 30 minutes on her schedule for Sherrod Brown.”

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