First lady Michelle Obama officially, and albeit reluctantly, joined the midterm election campaign trail today in support of the various Democrats fighting close races to keep their congressional seats. With stops in Chicago and Milwaukee among other major cities, the Dems are hoping to capitalize on her popularity which according to opinion polls is significantly higher than her husband. After all, Forbes crowned her the most powerful woman in the world.
Her entree into campaigning has yielded various comparisons to former First Lady Laura Bush who also stumped for her husband during the 2002 midterm elections and his 2004 re-election campaign. It’s interesting though that First Lady Bush’s efforts in 2002 didn’t work and Democrats won a large number of Republican seats. Obama is working hard to prevent a similar outcome particularly by emphasizing her husband’s commitment to improving the economy and conditions for working-class citizens.
Many candidates are banking on the self-proclaimed “mom-in-chief” to sway swing voters, to get already registered Democrats out to the ballot box in November, and especially to raise money. Her focus on providing a strong future for her children is part of her appeal, casting her as more down-to-earth than the commander-in-chief, with the idea that she can represent “everywoman” and knows the struggles parents face.
What’s curious is that there is such a strong push to utilize the power of first ladies (ahem, female voices) in these campaigns to appeal to female voters yet there are so few women actually running or currently holding office. This is yet another example of how our society, both women and men, is more comfortable with seeing women in a supportive role rather than a leadership position. We are desirable as voters but not candidates. But when it comes down to it, these powerful women are key to the male-dominated operation. Sound familiar?