OBAMA GOT GAME: Junior Senator crushes Hillary and Edwards in historic win

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I’m sorry I took too long, but as Gene Robinson of the Washington Post has said, this is a “Goosebumps moment.” As I write and listen once more to the victory speech, the tears are coming and I feel as emotional as a pregnant woman does. I will be in church on Sunday morning and nobody will be able to hold me down because I will be a shouting fool.

I needed this as my grandparents needed Martin and Malcolm. I needed this because I need to believe in something again. I needed this because my spirit has been shattered, my joy has been stolen, and my hope in my country destroyed. God has moved and his hand is clearly on Barack Obama. Iowa, 95% white, has sent the nation and the world a message that in the words of one of Sam Cooke’s signature tunes,”A Change gon’ Come.” And come it has.

Last night, Barack Obama, finally gave us, his people, “a word from the Lord.”

“They said this day would never come. They said our sights were set too high. They said this country was too divided, too disillusioned to ever come together around a common purpose. But on this January night, at this defining moment in history, you have done what the cynics said we couldn’t do.”

“You have done what the state of New Hampshire can do in five days. You have done what America can do in this New Year 2008. In lines that stretched around schools and churches, in small towns and big cities, you came together as Democrats, Republicans and Independents to stand up and say that we are one nation, one people, and our time for a change has come.”

I still have Goosebumps. I could shout right here in this internet cafe. I don’t know about you, but after the almost divine intervention of Oprah, I could feel this tectonic shift in American politics coming.

Basking in the glow of this historical moment, one I’ve dreamed of for 25 years, I’ve overcome my bitter and sarcastic cynicism, and I have decided to endorse Barack Obama for President of the United States.

I am not taking back the substance of my criticisms because they represent my unvarnished feelings. Today, however, I feel like Patti Labelle and have “a new attitude.” Looking back over last year, I skillfully erected a wall of opposition to Barack Obama as strong as anything in the biblical Jericho because of his various missteps and obvious pandering to the corporate power structure. It got to the point where I could not even hear the brotha speak without picking out how he was telegraphing his mainstream intentions to the establishment and I just tuned him out. He didn’t move me until last night but Michelle and Oprah did, I must admit.

Michelle Obama cracked the walls of my ideological Jericho with her forthright manner in general and her South Carolina speech in particular. I cannot say enough about how attractive, articulate and persuasive a spokesperson she is on behalf of her husband. In February, after hearing him in person for the first time, I made it clear how necessary it was for Barack to give blackfolks, “A Word From The Lord.” He did and I guarantee that Black America will respond by abandoning Hillary Clinton en masse.

For me, however, Michelle Obama had already beat him to the punch with her address to a Orangeburg, South Carolina gathering. Sistah girl nailed it.

Michelle is able to communicate from the heart in a way that is both uplifting and empowering to me. Her spiel serves the dual purpose of communicating to whitefolks her safe middle class bonifides and her commitment to black empowerment. The frank recounting of the reservations she expressed about a presidential bid tells us that the sistah is grounded by the love of her upbringing, and will use those values as a guidepost for the road ahead. For Michelle, the personal is political which is demonstrated by her faith in a loving God and her wholesome commitment to strengthening families, especially the black family. I can think of no other woman I’d rather see become First Lady.

Michelle’s statuesque beauty, effortless style, bottomless grace, quiet intellect and amazing humility are exactly the qualities that America’s trailblazing black First Lady must exhibit and that her husband ought to have at his side.

Oprah, on the other hand, is another matter entirely. Being in South Carolina with that massive crowd was almost a religious experience. The walls of my ideological Jericho came down with a mighty shout. I’ve been wrestling with how to tell y’all because I knew when I left the stadium that I would support Obama.

I traveled to South Carolina alone and adopted the lady in line next to me as my play mom for the day. I asked Ms. Johnson how many of her girlfriends supported Hillary. Ms. Johnson told me, “I don’t know nobody supporting Hillary.” I shoulda known then that Obama had ended Hillary’s chances of the nomination. Taking nothing away from the formidable imperial guard surrounding Hillary, I am quite comfortable predicting that Hillary will lose New Hampshire and the nomination to Obama.

Trailblazers like Oprah were way ahead of people like me. Never a true skeptic although she remained aloof from politics, Oprah, a billionaire as a result of her finger on the pulse of this country, knew a winner when she saw one.

Pondering the import of Oprah Winfrey’s whirlwind tour on behalf of Barack Obama has left me seeing the world in a new way and has me viewing Obama’s groundbreaking candidacy through the prism of Oprah Winfrey’s experience. Oprah’s humble yet passionate articulation of Obama’s cause brought the right touch of star power and street cred. Skeptical pundits have been forever silenced by Oprah’s power to help Obama draw weekend crowds of 66,000 in three states.

Both Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey, as Maya Angelou would agree, are phenomenal women, phenomenally. Just like Michelle Obama, I’ve had trouble reconciling Barack Obama the man and Barack Obama the phenomenon. Together, Michelle and Oprah helped put it into the proper perspective for me. Let me break it down, it’s all about the O, and I don’t mean Overstock.com.

Examining the arc of her remarkable life from Mississippi, Tennessee and Illinois, I am struck by how similar it tracks the same path as another daughter of Mississippi: Ida B. Wells-Barnett. I’ve always believed that although a prominent heroine of black history, Mrs. Wells-Barnett never fully received her due as a result of the bitter Victorian sexism of her time. Mrs. Wells-Barnett more than earned her place in the pantheon of black historical legends like Frederick Douglass and W.E.B. DuBois.

Born into slavery in 1862, orphaned at 14 by a yellow fever epidemic and left to raise five younger siblings, Ida B. Wells rose from the grinding poverty of Holly Springs, Mississippi to the highest echelon of black society. A teacher, journalist, anti-lynching activist, feminist, suffragist and Republican politician (we were republicans then), her significant contributions to our struggle against white supremacy and Jim Crow segregation cannot be exaggerated.

Crusader in Defense of the Black Body

Well educated for a child of slaves, she was educated at Mississippi’s Rust College and Tennessee’s Fisk University, both HBCU’s. By twenty, she moved with her siblings to Tennessee and settled in Memphis. By twenty-two, Wells-Barnett was leading campaigns against segregation in public accommodations. By twenty-four, she was writing editorials and investigative pieces to fight against lynching and white supremacy. She became a crusader in defense of the Black Body and a defender of our lives against the relentlessly racist oppression imposed by Jim Crow.


Crusader in Defense of the Black Spirit


Kosciusko, Mississippi born Oprah Winfrey, a trailblazing journalist, businesswoman, media personality, philanthropist, and child advocate, picked up Ida’s torch and has become a crusader in defense of the black spirit. Nashville’s first Black news anchor, she has used her life to fight a crusade against child sexual abuse, racism, poverty, and neglect. Single-handedly, the victim of rape and sexual molestation at the hands of cousin, uncle and her mother’s boyfriend, she is responsible for federal legislation that she authored to create a national registry of sex offenders to track predators against our children.

A philanthropist of legendary scale, she has given millions to black colleges and universities, is spending more money on rebuilding housing for hurricane Katrina victims than the damn federal government-over $17,000,000 million, despite billions appropriated and not spent by Washington, and is channeling millions of dollars for educational programs and HIV/AIDS programs in this country and worldwide.

An actress of legendary prowess, she came to national attention in her portrayal of Sophia in Alice Walker’s “The Color Purple.” The character Sophia is asked by the wife of the town’s Mayor if she would like to be her maid. Sophia’s reply, “Hell No” is so robust, vehement, and unexpected that it ends up causing a dust-up in which she has to defend herself from a racist physical assault for “sassing” Miss Millie and her white male defenders. Sophia ends up rotting in Jail for years before being re-united with her family and the “kind-hearted” bitch for which she initially refused to work-as her maid.

Domestic servitude in the kitchens of white women is part and parcel of the history of black women in this country and touches upon a raw nerve that exists for black women of multiple generations-even now. Black women’s unjustified allegiance to Hillary Clinton tap dances on that nerve. My maternal grandmother, now in her 8th decade, is a woman of remarkable intestinal fortitude, humor, wisdom, and unassailable dignity. She is the rock upon which our family has relied for nearly 60 years. As a young mother of three and wife of an abusive husband, she found herself having to abandon the marriage and flee to the safety of family a good distance away. Work as a domestic in the homes of white women was what was available to her and she took it and used it to put herself through nursing school.

Mama told me how she was asked by the south Florida matron she worked for if she knew what “elbow grease” was. The woman wanted Mama to get down on her hands and knees and scrub the floor with a toothbrush like a house slave on the plantation. That vignette has always stayed with me and is like a festering boil that never heals. My grandmama’s story reveals the texture, depth, and authenticity of black women’s struggle in this country. It is something that Hillary Clinton, blinded by her sense of royal entitlement, will never understand and something that the grandson of a British colonial servant does.

Reminding us of the “Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman” on the tour with the Obama’s, Oprah echoed Jane Pittman when she famously asked each of the children, “Are you the one, Are you the one that will save us.” He won’t single-handedly save us, but I sincerely believe that he is the one for this moment.

His election as president, should it occur, will not overnight result in a diminution of the world’s oppressive racial order, but it will be a step in the right direction for change. I could never get the image out of my head that Michelle conjured up of her husband taking the oath of office. I don’t think he can single-handedly end white supremacy and the grip of capitalist patriarchy, but I think that he may serve as an inspiration to the child or children who can.

Obama truly got game. He can unite this racially divided country in the spirit of brotherhood as nobody can, and for this reason, he will have my unswerving support.

Michelle’s mystique

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Michelle Obama 

Hat Tip: By Carly Zakin, NBC News 

WASHINGTON – Since he stepped onto the national political stage, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., has been compared to a rock star, a superstar, and even an NBA all-star.

“I’m LeBron, baby,” he told Chicago Tribune reporter and biographer David Mendell, referring to LeBron James of the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers.

But if the Cavaliers’ loss in this year’s NBA finals proves anything, it’s that even NBA all-stars aren’t always perfect.

And if Michelle Obama has shown voters one thing this campaign season, it’s that neither is her husband. He has big ears, she has said. A funny name, too. He doesn’t put the butter away. He has trouble making beds. He’s not the “next Messiah who’s going to fix it all. In the end, he’s just a man.”

Michelle Obama — a Princeton graduate, Harvard-educated lawyer and, until recently, vice president of the University of Chicago Medical Center — is the least famous spouse of the Democratic front-runners. Former President Bill Clinton is his wife’s biographer of her qualifications to be president and would be a roaming ambassador in a Hillary Clinton administration. Elizabeth Edwards, meanwhile, essentially serves as a second campaign manager to her husband and has made headlines by delivering punches to rivals and opponents.

But so far in this presidential race, it’s clear that Michelle Obama is playing a different kind of role in her husband’s campaign. She makes no qualms about checking Obama’s ego, appearing politically hesitant, and acting as an enforcer of sorts. But one facet remains a mystery: What kind of first lady would she be?

This question is something rarely asked of the better known and understood Bill Clinton and Elizabeth Edwards.

Despite their checkered marital history, the Clintons have publicly emerged as a true partnership on the campaign trail. At the Iowa State Fairgrounds earlier this month, he kept his arm around his wife’s shoulders, as she wrapped one arm around him.

“Who do you think will be the best president?” he asked the crowd — before answering his own question that even if she weren’t his wife he would still be campaigning for her.

“In 2008, I will celebrate my 40th year as a voter,” he said, “and in those 40 years… she is by a long stretch the best qualified non-incumbent I have ever had a chance to vote for in my entire life.” After his introduction, Hillary embraced her husband, only to then remind voters of their prevailing partnership. “We’ve traveled a lot of miles together over the last 35 years,” she told the crowd.

Elizabeth Edwards also has done the campaign drill before, and this time around has taken on a more active — and more outspoken — role as his fiercest protector and adviser. According a recent New York Times Magazine piece by Matt Bai, it was Elizabeth who told her husband not to listen to his advisers and to choose poverty as his primary focus. She also set off a national media frenzy by calling into MSNBC’s “Hardball” to ask that guest Ann Coulter stop attacking her husband. And most recently, in a not-so subtle shot at Hillary Clinton, she said in an interview that her husband would be a better advocate for women than Clinton would.

While Elizabeth Edwards takes on the role of a mother bear protecting her cub, the source of Barack Obama’s most frequent affronts — when they don’t come from his rivals — is his wife. First lady author and commentator Carl Sferrazza Anthony says that “she has been trying to kind of take [her husband] down a peg or two in public, not to so much emasculate him, but to say, ‘Hey, he’s a regular guy.’ She obviously loves him. Barbara Bush used to do that too.”

But her efforts to make Obama real also have attracted criticism. New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd wondered back in April why she didn’t like this realness with Michelle and Barack.

“I wince a bit when Michelle Obama chides her husband as a mere mortal — comic routine that rests on the presumption that we see him as a god,” she wrote. “But it may not be smart politics to mock him in a way that turns him from the glam J.F.K. into the mundane Gerald Ford, toasting his own English muffins. If all Senator Obama is peddling is the Camelot mystique, why debunk this mystique?”

Also, unlike Bill Clinton and Elizabeth Edwards, Michelle Obama has made it clear that she’s not a strategist for her husband’s campaign.

“My job is not a senior adviser,” she has said. ”I am here as a wife.”

Her spokeswoman, Katie McCormick Lelyveld, adds that Mrs. Obama serves as her husband’s “surrogate ear. Her expertise is who he is as a person,” and she relays that to voters and brings back their concerns to the senator. 

Michelle Obama has avoided offering details on what she will focus on as first lady. Her spokeswoman said that her first priority would be as a mother, wife, then “really assessing what the country needs” and “rising to the occasion.” For someone who does not hesitate to offer her opinion, Michelle will not interfere with her husband’s policies, McCormick Lelyveld said.

Sferrazza Anthony finds it interesting, however, that seeing as “they both met through the legal profession… there are going to be issues that they discuss. She has sort of said she doesn’t influence his policy. I have found it interesting the press hasn’t looked deeper into what she means by that? Perhaps that means there is legislation they disagree on.”

McCormick Lelyveld maintains that the Obamas keep politics out their home.

But inside her home, Michelle Obama has also become something of an enforcer. As her smoking husband has tried to quit the habit, per his wife’s demand, Michelle’s brother Craig Robinson joked to The New York Times in May that Obama didn’t need a nicotine patch. “Michelle Obama! That’s one hell of a patch right there!”

At a May ice cream social in New Hampshire, Michelle Obama stood on what seemed to be a figurative and literal pedestal to introduce her husband. “I’m the better looking one. I’m smarter, too,” she said.

As the crowd laughed, her husband nodded, offered a half-smile, and looked down, rocking his body as if waiting for his wife’s latest ego-knockdown to end. When she finished, there was an awkward half-hug and kiss embrace, with neither spouse seeming to know how to interact with the other.

Spokeswoman McCormick Lelyveld said that when “she teases him, there is a method to her madness.” She shows that “ he is a real person, he is reachable, he is human and he is just one man.”

In other words, he’s not LeBron James after all.

Campaign Mailbag: Michelle Obama’s humorous campaign solicitation

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Michelle Obama

May 4, 2007

 

Dear White Liberal,

It wasn’t exactly a typical date with an up-and-coming, Harvard-educated brotha who worked at a pretentious white-shoe firm. He didn’t take a sistah to a fancy restaurant. There were no tickets to the opera or ballet, nor did we rub elbows with bougie Negroes.

Instead, he took me to a neighborhood church in the hood on the south side of Chicago. And that was the day when I said to myself: “Girl, betta lock this brotha down quick.” I realized that Barack Obama, the man I was going to marry, was a very different, truly extraordinary, Negro.

I was a young lawyer, a token sistah, working for the Man at the firm where Barack was hired as a summer token; but he was unlike most of the professional uncle tom’s I knew. He seemed unconcerned with frontin’ as if he’d arrived. Barack always insisted altruistically that he didn’t go to law school to cash out. He went to try to make a change. I thought to myself, “Negro, please, I just ain’t figured out your hustle yet.”

And hustle is exactly what he was doing on the South Side that night: he was leading a training session for some naïve-honest-to-Gawd- community activists. And the moment he walked into that church, took off his coat, rolled up his sleeves, loosened his tie and began to speak, I knew the Negro had Game.

He broke them off something proper—a speech about the world as it is and the world as it should and ain’t never gonna be-as long as Y’all are still running the world. A chorus of “amen’s” filled the church as he spoke. By the time he was finished, he had snowed every single one up in that piece. It was somethin’, Baby. For real though, Chile.

I hurried up and married him, Baby. Today, we are some prosperous buppie’s with two of the prettiest little girls you ever did see. I’m pulling down 300k at the University of Chicago Hospital and I’ve got the Audacity to Hope that those damn royalty checks start rollin’ in quickly to support my spending. Honey, I almost forgot, Barack is running for President of the United States.

Barack is running this hustle-I mean campaign-the same way he organized neighborhoods-with a slick and sophisticated snow job that inspires empty-headed, pie in the sky white liberals like you to get involved and to take a stand.

That’s where your dumb ass comes in. I’m writing to you today not just as the wife of a candidate, but as a sistah, a mama, a professional and above all, a diva desperate for y’all to send in your change so I can make a change at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and tell Laura Bush, “Bitch, guess who’s coming to dinner.” Can you help a sistah out and break us off a $ 1,000 or even $ 1,500 to Obama for America today?

I suppose you could say we’ve come a long way, Baby. But the Barack Obama who’s a United States Senator seeking our nation’s highest office is still the brotha that snowed those Negroes in the hood the same way he’s snowed all y’all’s dumb assess.

He’s a beaming father who always delights in leaving my ass at home with the kids as he saves the world. He’s confident in the knowledge that I only tolerate this bullshit because the chance to become the most pampered and socially prominent diva in the world is too hard to pass up.

After several years in grimy, corrupt Chicago ward politics, it hasn’t dimmed his love of the quest for power one bit.

Barack’s experience working in the drug-infested ghettos of Chicago’s south side taught him something profound-Negroes will believe any damn thing as long as you quote scripture and play on their desperation for something better.

Barack’s innate predator instinct convinced him that no matter how bleak things look, desperate Negroes, stupid Negroes, silly Negroes could be used to set him up for a run at the big time-and they sho’ nuff did.

I see the genius of this hustle for what it is and am convinced that with fools like you falling for the magic of my man’s hustle, we can go all the way.

Everywhere I’ve traveled with Barack, I’m freakin’ amazed not just by the size of the crowds but by the fact that there are always so many smiling white faces wanting to touch the hem of my man’s garment because they think he’s the second coming.

Hallelujah! Thank You, Jesus for fools like you snowed by the Audacity of Hope.

Barack’s counting on the people for whom he’s fighting—the corporations and the moderate republicans—to stand with him. That’s why I’m asking you to rush a generous contribution to Obama for America today.

Take it from a former skeptic—he’s got this hustle down, honey and we can win this shit.

And take it from a Sistah who first ventured into that ghetto church with Barack those many moons ago; this is a special Negro, a truly extraordinary Negro, a Safe Negro, and one who will not ever—no matter how much you wish or hope—upset the apple cart of the white capitalist power structure.

Thank You for your naïveté, and support

Sincerely,

Michelle Obama

P.S. When it comes to his corporate backed vision, Barack’s eyes are focused squarely on the ball-I’ve seen to that as his wife. Let me assure you that his family is keepin’ it real.

There was the time he called me after a Senate vote and told me how proud he was to have passed some bullshit I don’t remember and how very inspired he felt—to which I replied, “That’s nice, Baby, but Aunt Juicy is here in the kitchen and she done drunk all the Alize. Stop by the co’ner store and pick up a couple of bottles.

Well, we laugh about times like those, but in many ways, they remind me of what makes Barack so special-He got game and he just keep coming back stronger and harder serving up that special somethin, somethin’ that y’all can’t get enough of-like Sinefeld and bullshit like that.

Michelle Obama’s balancing act goes national

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It was a triumphant moment for Barack Obama: He was walking through the Capitol for the very first time as a United States senator in January 2005, trailed by photographers, hangers-on, and finally, his amused wife. Rolling her eyes as she pulled a reporter aside, Michelle Obama said, “Maybe one day, he will do something to warrant all this attention.”

Two years and one presidential announcement later, the sarcasm is gone, and a woman who has said she dislikes politics is assuming a starring role in her husband’s campaign for the White House.

Last week, in Windham, N.H., Mrs. Obama charmed a houseful of Democratic voters, speaking of her romance with the candidate and kneeling next to two little boys and their sister to inquire, “Which one of you is the troublemaker?”

She was still a bit irreverent: “I’m sure this guy is weird,” she said, describing her initial reaction to her husband’s name. But she turned earnest when talking of the presidency. “I know Barack is something special,” she said. “If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be here.”

Mrs. Obama’s is the trickiest of political performances. She is a black woman in a campaign in which no one knows quite what role race or gender will play. She has a propensity for bluntness and a fierce competitive drive. (“She’s a little meaner than I am,” her husband jokes.)

Her counterparts include Bill Clinton, the former president and consummate campaigner hoping to become the First Gent; and Elizabeth Edwards, who has been praised across the political spectrum for her tenacity in dealing with incurable cancer.

Even successful first lady auditions can be remembered as political don’ts: take Nancy Reagan (regarded as too adoring of her husband) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (too eager to share his job), to say nothing of spouses of losing candidates, like Judith Steinberg Dean (too absent) and Teresa Heinz Kerry (too outspoken).

Faced with those discouraging precedents, Mrs. Obama, 43, is trying a fresh approach: running as everywoman, a wife, professional, mother, volunteer.

While her husband’s story is singular — how many other Hawaiian-Indonesian-African-Midwestern sensations are there? — Mrs. Obama is his more down-to-earth counterpart, drawing parallels between the voters’ daily balancing acts and her own. The role suits her natural frankness — she has gone so far as to talk about how she had to cope with an overflowing toilet — and yet confines it safely to the domestic sphere.

In an interview, Mrs. Obama said that she is still unprepared to take on the role for which she is trying out.

“My God, who can sit here and say, ‘I’m ready to be president and first lady?’ ” she asked. But like her husband, she is running on biography, suggesting that her most important qualifications are her life experiences. Daughter of a Chicago city pump operator who had multiple sclerosis, she graduated from Princeton and Harvard and juggles her job as a hospital executive with motherhood and civic work.

Mrs. Obama dislikes politics, friends and family confirmed, but not as much as she dislikes losing. Craig Robinson, her brother and the Brown University men’s basketball coach, said his sister did not enjoy organized sports when she was younger because she so hated defeat and even now pouts when a board game does not go her way. His sister is brainy and warm, he said, but also a force to be reckoned with.

“Everyone in the family is afraid of her,” he said with a smile. Asked if Mr. Obama used a nicotine patch to quit smoking, Mr. Robinson cracked up. “Michelle Obama!” he said. “That’s one hell of a patch right there!”

Accordingly, she threw herself into her husband’s campaign from the start, asking to meet with aides running every aspect of it. Friends says she is decisive and pragmatic, perhaps more so than the candidate.

At a meeting last October, when some advisers were impressing upon Mr. Obama the importance of discipline and telling him he could not rely on oratorical talents alone in a national campaign, he began offering explanations. One participant recalled that Mrs. Obama cut him off, saying, “We’re talking about you right now.” He did not say another word.

Now she is traveling as much as three days a week, headlining events and becoming an attraction in her own right. Aides say that she will not make policy speeches or attack other candidates, and Mrs. Obama says that she makes a sharp distinction between her role and that of the campaign staff.

For instance, after the first Democratic presidential debate in South Carolina in April, she walked on stage and gave her husband a big hug. But she did not offer a critique of his performance because, she said, she wants to keep her marriage “sort of stress-free, free of the discussion, free of the analysis, free of the assessment.”

Instead, she serves as roaming ambassador. For African-American audiences, Mrs. Obama is one of their own, with a more familiar background than that of her husband. At a black church in Cincinnati last week, the audience mmm-hmmm-ed approval throughout her speech.

To female audiences, Mrs. Obama emphasizes her struggle to balance travel, work meetings and homework detail. Last Monday, for instance, Mrs. Obama zoomed out of bed, to the airport, onto a flight to New Hampshire, through two campaign events and a McDonald’s drive-through, then back to the Midwest and into her two daughters’ waiting arms.

“I wake up every morning wondering how on the earth I am going to pull off that next minor miracle of getting through the day,” she said at a “Women for Obama” event last month in Chicago.

Most politicians draw a curtain of privacy around their families. Mrs. Obama takes voters into daily life in her Chicago kitchen (where Mr. Obama sometimes fails to put the butter away, she says), and even, with an anecdote about an overflowing toilet, her bathroom.

Such patter draws a contrast with the lives of other presidential contenders, including those of John Edwards, who lives in a 28,000-square-foot mansion; Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former New York mayor whose remarriage has strained his relations with his children; and Mrs. Clinton, with her past marital trials.

“I think that that sort of statement is all about the Clintons, and it’s also designed to resonate with middle-income Americans who have quote unquote normal marriages in which the spouse at home calls the other and asks to bring home a bag of salad,” said Nancy Beck Young, a history professor who has made a study of first ladies and will teach at the University of Houston this fall.

Mrs. Obama is learning political wife speak: She claims, for example, she has not thought very much about what kind of first lady Mrs. Clinton was. She still shows flashes of frankness, especially about the cost of Mr. Obama’s political career.

The couple once pledged to give their daughters — Malia, now 8, and Sasha, 5 — the kind of dinner-together-every-night childhood that Mrs. Obama had growing up in Chicago. Now, the senator is mostly on the road or in Washington.

Although Mrs. Obama describes her husband as a loving father, she worries about the actual amount of fathering he is doing. Mr. Obama has acknowledged in his book that his absences caused tensions when the girls were younger. And his wife initially resisted his presidential ambitions, fearing the impact on their family life.

“Barack and Michelle thought long and hard about this decision before they made it,” said Valerie Jarrett, a family friend.

Even before the presidential race, life was a whirl of how-does-she-do-it multitasking for Mrs. Obama, with 4:30 a.m. treadmill sessions and meals prepared at lightning speed. “She’s kind of low on the Martha Stewart scale,” said Verna Williams, a longtime friend, “more like Rachael Ray, get it done in 30 minutes.” To help out, Mrs. Obama’s mother will retire this summer from her job as a bank secretary and care for the girls more frequently.

The Obamas began their careers as equals, and Mr. Obama is fond of saying that his wife has the skills, if not the experience or patience, to run for office. But now she is ceding her career to his, reducing her time at the hospital to a 20 percent commitment (and her paycheck to $42,436 from $212,180), though she remains on the board of TreeHouse Foods, a supplier of Wal-Mart.

She expresses no regret about scaling down her job at the hospital, where colleagues say she excels at tackling thorny problems. But this winter, after spotting a book on the Obamas’ coffee table celebrating Mr. Obama’s Senate victory, her staff created a matching volume of her accomplishments. Mrs. Obama wept when she saw it.

At campaign appearances, Mrs. Obama gets approving reviews. “People do judge a candidate by his wife — or her husband,” said Lynne Snierson, a marketing executive who has watched countless candidates trudge through New Hampshire.

When Mrs. Obama mentioned her daughters at an event in New Hampshire, one woman cooed about “bringing laughter back to the White House,” while two retirees whispered that she was the picture of “everyday elegance” in her red sweater set and smooth flip of a hairstyle.

It was the same perfectly calibrated look reflected in a recent cover of Ebony magazine. Seeking to make the couple look as presidential as possible, Harriette Cole, the magazine’s creative director, said stylists at the photo shoot offered Mrs. Obama a strand of West Wing-appropriate pearls.

She had already brought her own.