The perils of popularity! (ap)
While President Obama's approval ratings are hovering at 50 percent, first lady Michelle Obama is enjoying a 62 percent favorability, according to Rasmussen Reports. Her numbers are up four points from last month and represent her highest favorables in several months.
Lesson: Playing it safe pays off. The first lady, once a controversial figure during the campaign, has successfully rebranded her image to be softer, more nurturing, approachable — non-controversial. What is she best known for? Her clothes and figure, the White House kitchen garden, and her visits with schoolchildren.
It's a trick that former first lady Laura Bush pulled off just as well, and it's clear that Mrs. Obama has taken a page from her predecessor, whom Obama has said she admires. Mrs. Bush is formidable, sometimes icy, with an iron spine — and yet she was generally misunderstood to be merely a gentle librarian (not unlike her mother-in-law, former first lady Barbara Bush, a tough matriarch popularly perceived as an avuncular grandma).
A popular first lady is a huge asset to any president, and the Obama administration is likely to deploy Michelle Obama in much the same way the Bush administration used Laura Bush during election years — dispatching her to fundraisers and rallies in support of Democratic candidates.
It would be a newish role for the first lady, who has mostly steered clear of an overtly political or policy role (despite her strong credentials and reported interest in a more robust portfolio).
It could be slightly tricky: Right after the election, 62 percent of voters said they expected Michelle Obama to be an activist first lady, according to Rasmussen. One year later, after seeing her in action, that number has dropped to 56 percent.