First lady prov­ing to be a pow­er­ful ally for pres­i­den­tial con­tender

7 Days in Dubai - - SPECIAL REPORT -

il­lary Clin­ton was al­ways ex­pected to get a late-cam­paign boost from the White House. The sur­prise is that it’s not com­ing from the pres­i­dent.

On a star-stud­ded team of cam­paign sur­ro­gates – in­clud­ing Pres­i­dent Barack Obama – the most valu­able player of 2016 is un­doubt­edly Michelle Obama.

Dur­ing a di­vi­sive po­lit­i­cal year, the hugely pop­u­lar first lady has wowed vot­ers with her pow­er­ful rhetoric. And she can be the emo­tional cen­tre to a cam­paign whose can­di­date is not known for pro­ject­ing warmth.

Last week, in a sear­ing in­dict­ment of Repub­li­can nom­i­nee Don­ald Trump that was broad­cast live by ca­ble news net­works, Michelle Obama said his recorded boasts about mak­ing un­wanted sex­ual ad­vances to­ward women had “shaken me to my core in a way that I couldn’t have pre­dicted”.

With that, the first lady spoke in terms that Hil­lary Clin­ton rarely does, given ac­cu­sa­tions against her own hus­band that he’s long de­nied – but Trump has raised.

“If Hil­lary Clin­ton were out there mak­ing these same ar­gu­ments, we know how Don­ald Trump would re­spond, by at­tack­ing for­mer Pres­i­dent Clin­ton and bring­ing up old sto­ries from the 90s,” said Demo­cratic strate­gist Lis Smith.

Michelle Obama also had one of the most mem­o­rable lines of the Demo­cratic National Con­ven­tion, say­ing her fam­ily motto is: “When they go low, we go high.” Clin­ton has re­peated that line in pub­lic sev­eral times since “Michelle Obama is seen as a truly au­then­tic voice that what­ever topic she speaks on, peo­ple feel that it’s re­ally com­ing from her bones,” said Demo­cratic strate­gist Mary Anne Marsh.

To the Clin­ton cam­paign, Michelle Obama is a cru­cial as­set who can con­nect with the Demo­cratic base – par­tic­u­larly young peo­ple – but also reach in­de­pen­dent and un­de­cided vot­ers. That was clear on Mon­day, when the cam­paign sig­nalled a push into tra­di­tion­ally Repub­li­can Ari­zona by an­nounc­ing that the first lady would host an early-vote rally in Phoenix on Thurs­day.

“There is no more pow­er­ful ad­vo­cate for our cam­paign,” said Clin­ton com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor Jennifer Palmieri.

“Be­cause the first lady isn’t seen as a po­lit­i­cal fig­ure, when she does speak out, it has a real im­pact.” Even among Clin­ton’s so-called “uber­sur­ro­gates” – the Pres­i­dent, Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Bi­den, for­mer Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton, sen­a­tors Bernie San­ders and Eliz­a­beth War­ren – Michelle Obama has stood out. Once a re­luc­tant cam­paigner, she has grown more com­fort­able. after more than eight years on the national stage, pro­mot­ing her child­hood obe­sity and ed­u­ca­tion ini­tia­tives, host­ing her own events and show­ing a play­ful side on talk shows and in in­ter­views.

“Ei­ther she’s Meryl Streep, or she’s re­ally gen­uine about this,” said Robert Wat­son, an Amer­i­can studies pro­fes­sor at Lynn Uni­ver­sity. “In this year of plas­tic can­di­dates, Michelle just seems the most gen­uine one out there.”

Still, po­lit­i­cal an­a­lysts said the in­ten­sity of her ad­vo­cacy for Clin­ton is no­table.

“It’s un­usual for a sit­ting first lady, or a sit­ting pres­i­dent for that mat­ter, to cam­paign so en­thu­si­as­ti­cally for a pres­i­den­tial can­di­date. They usu­ally take a lower pro­file ap­proach. This is in­dica­tive of how im­por­tant both Oba­mas think this elec­tion is,” said Kather­ine Jel­li­son, chair of the his­tory depart­ment at Ohio Uni­ver­sity who studies the first ladies.

And Michelle Obama is, so far, one of the few to es­cape the wrath of Trump, who has spo­ken harshly about var­i­ous vot­ing groups, his own Repub­li­can lead­ers and the women who have ac­cused him of sex­ual mis­con­duct.

“I can’t think of a bolder way for Don­ald Trump to lose even more stand­ing than he al­ready has by en­gag­ing the first lady,” said White House spokesman Eric Schultz.

FACE-OFF: Trump and Clin­ton de­bate tonight

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