First lady to hit cam­paign trail

Michelle Obama will stump for Democrats in six states.

Los Angeles Times - - Latextra - Maeve Re­ston maeve.re­ston@latimes.com Peter Ni­cholas of the Tribune Washington Bureau con­trib­uted to this re­port.

First Lady Michelle Obama will make her first foray into the midterm elec­tion cy­cle in Oc­to­ber when she be­gins a se­ries of trips that will take her to six states and end with Cal­i­for­nia cam­paign events for House Democrats, the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee and Sen. Bar­bara Boxer.

For now, the first lady’s sched­ule is pri­mar­ily fo­cused on fundrais­ing, but her events are cer­tain to draw sig­nif­i­cant pub­lic in­ter­est. With her pop­u­lar­ity high — her rat­ings out­paced her hus­band’s by dou­ble dig­its ear­lier this sum­mer — the White House clearly sees her as an ef­fec­tive voice for the pres­i­dent’s agenda. Yet send­ing her into fiercely con­tested races is a risky de­ci­sion for the White House, one that il­lus­trates the grav­ity with which both the ad­min­is­tra­tion and Demo­cratic lead­ers are ap­proach­ing the Nov. 2 elec­tion.

Ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials sug­gested Tues­day that Obama’s mes­sage on the cam­paign trail would not be overtly par­ti­san. Her role, they said, would be sim­i­lar to that in 2008, when she sought to serve as an up­beat ad­vo­cate for hus­band’s agenda rather than at­tack­ing Repub­li­cans. At a White House brief­ing Tues­day, press sec­re­tary Robert Gibbs said she would “make a force­ful and pos­i­tive case about what the ad­min­is­tra­tion has done.”

To that end, of­fi­cials said Michelle Obama would fo­cus on the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ef­forts to ex­pand the avail­abil­ity of loans for small busi­nesses, make col­lege more af­ford­able, re­form health­care and boost sup­port for mil­i­tary fam­i­lies.

The se­ries of midweek trips will be­gin in mid-Oc­to­ber with a swing through Mil­wau­kee and Chicago for sep­a­rate fundrais­ing events for Sen. Rus­sell D. Fein­gold (D-Wis.) and Alexi Gian­nou­lias, who is run­ning for Se­nate in Illi­nois, as well as three House mem­bers. Af­ter trips to Den­ver and New York, the first lady’s Western swing be­gins the week of Oct. 25 in Washington state, where she will raise money for en­dan­gered Sen. Patty Mur­ray, and ends with three days in Cal­i­for­nia.

Boxer, who is tied in the polls with Repub­li­can ri­val Carly Fio­r­ina, joined Michelle Obama for a June event at Camp Pendle­ton, where they vis­ited with mil­i­tary fam­i­lies.

While a num­ber of can­di­dates na­tion­wide are edg­ing away from the pres­i­dent, there has been no such re­luc­tance to ap­pear with his wife, whose fa­vor­a­bil­ity rat­ing stood at an en­vi­able 66% in July. But her for­ays also com­pli­cate the de­sires of some Demo­cratic fig­ures to avoid na­tion­al­iz­ing the elec­tion or mak­ing it a ref­er­en­dum on Pres­i­dent Obama and his poli­cies.

Boxer’s cam­paign em­braced the visit. Cam­paign man­ager Rose Kapol­czyn­ski said Boxer’s team was “thrilled that in the clos­ing days of the cam­paign, the first lady will be com­ing to Cal­i­for­nia to cam­paign with us and urge Cal­i­for­ni­ans to go to the polls.”

Fio­r­ina’s cam­paign brushed aside the trip’s im­pact. “Na­tional Democrats are clearly so ner­vous about Cal­i­for­ni­ans’ dis­taste for Bar­bara Boxer and her nearly three-decade po­lit­i­cal ca­reer of sup­port­ing jobkilling poli­cies and fail­ing the peo­ple of Cal­i­for­nia that they are forced to send in re­in­force­ments to try and sal­vage the only job Boxer cares about — her own,” Fio­r­ina spokes­woman An­drea Saul said.

Ja­son Reed

SUP­PORT: Michelle Obama greets guests at a Medal of Honor cer­e­mony at the White House on Tues­day. She’ll be­gin mak­ing cam­paign ap­pear­ances in Oc­to­ber.

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