4:00pm January 4, 2012

Talking Michelle Obama with the Tea Party Crowd

Michelle Obama in Florida

DES MOINES, IA – Election morning in Iowa I had the chance to sit down and chat with two prominent members of the Tea Party in Des Moines Iowa about the campaign. The conversation quickly moved from the candidates themselves (Romney, what else can you say about that guy?) to the candidate’s wives and the roles they play in the campaign. We pointed out that Ron Paul’s wife is almost non-existent on the campaign trail, yet he’s surging, but at the same time Mitt Romney’s wife is considered his ‘secret weapon’ to humanize him in the eyes of regular voters.

Predictably, the conversation soon turned to Barack Obama and how Michelle might fare in the eyes of voters. I had the following exchange with one of the Tea Party reps, a White female lawyer in her mid 30’s.

“Michelle Obama, I just find her…just awful. She’s awful. She really needs to dress better.”

“What do you mean, I mean, she dresses just like everyone else. Her clothes look like anything you’d find at Nordstrom’s.”

“She’s always showing off so much skin. I mean … all the sleeveless outfits and shirts. She needs to put some clothes on. It’s really inappropriate for a first lady.”

I’ll be honest with you, Michelle has her fair share of haters, but I never expected a 30 something year old woman to be on the morality tip when it came to the first lady. In general, Michelle Obama is pretty popular, beating her husband’s approval rating on a regular basis. Michelle ended 2011 with an average approval rating in the mid 60’s while Obama’s approval through the year hovered in the low 40’s. In addition, I always felt like Michelle Obama’s “realness” was an antidote to those that were skeptical of Barack Obama’s rosy outlook on life in the 2008 campaign. I considered her “Aunt Viv” act to be the perfect complement to his “Uncle Phil” act. Now I realize that these were the words of a Tea Party activist, but the conversation in general still got me thinking: What will Michelle really be able to contribute to Obama’s re-election efforts in 2012?

We’ve already seen the president stumble to galvanize Black voters and his base for the election. Will the words of a world-weary travelling Michelle Obama, who isn’t known to be the warmest of campaigners, do him good … or ill?

No presidential election has ever hung on the performance of a first spouse, positively or negatively, so to a certain extent these are academic questions. However, the president will need all of the support he can muster in order to get women, Blacks and young people back into the fold and back into the voting booth. While I’m sure that most independent voters let alone most sane Republicans aren’t fretting about the type of clothes Michelle wears it’s still important to consider. This woman may be the key to Obama’s election chances in some key areas and any criticism of her, any way in which she can be seen as anything other than an asset to his success, is something worth pondering come the heavy campaign season of 2012

Dr. Jason Johnson, Politic365 Chief Political Correspondent, is a professor of Political Science at Hiram College in Ohio and author of the book Political Consultants and Campaigns: One Day to Sell. You can read more at www.drjasonjohnson.com or follow him on Twitter @Drjasonjohnson

About the Author

Jason Johnson
Jason Johnson



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  1. Loree

    I am so suprised that you are so suprised that people think so ill of the First Lady. She may have an average figure but shows off too much skin all of the time–in addition to wearing a mulitude of colors that have no business with each other. She also spoke about how her husband snors and is "stinky" when he gets up—go Google that–I do not want to know that about anyone but especially about the US President…she got too cheeky and embarassingly intimate with a lot of her personal details…that has been corrected as this happened on several occasions early in the presidency. I am not an Obama fan but at least give us a First Lady that we can be proud of.

    • Dennis

      One ot the reasons the First Lady "shows off so much skin" is that she generally dresses in American designers and the clothing an average person will find in a modestly priced department store. She wears the colors and combinations most American women her age do. Perhaps you haven't looked around, but if you take the time you will see your wife, mother, sister or women in public dressing in a very similar way. It's typical everyday fashion. It's not immoral. I suspect if Mrs. Obama dressed differently we'd hear complaints that she's trying to appear superior to the average American mother and housewife.
      If you don't want to know the gossipy details of life in the White House you can do what I do….NOT google it, NOT read the tabloids and NOT urge others to do it. Did you hear? Americans face an economic crisis and a tumultous political situation? There's much better thiings to concern ourselves with than the First Lady's figure or fashion sense.

  2. Jonathan Evans

    She’s a Harvard-educated lawyer and we’re talking about her appearance as it relates to her worth on the campaign trail, rather than her abilities to think and speak. Women like those in the story and the previous commenter cement a notion that I began to sniff out when Barack was first elected over Hillary, and which grew with watching Bachmann struggle in Iowa: women are each other’s worst impediment to success in national politics.

  3. JaL

    Michelle is our best ambassador of diversity, cultural awareness and the advancement of women for the USA to show the world. Stunning, well educated, an achiever by ever measure. She is awesome!

  4. [...] ties to Romney's Bain Capital?mediabistro.comDemocratic Party Takes on RomneyWall Street JournalPolitic365 -DesMoinesRegister.com -Vanity Fairall 64 news [...]

  5. [...] Talking Michelle Obama with the Tea Party CrowdPolitic365DES MOINES, IA – Election morning in Iowa I had the chance to sit down and chat with two prominent members of the Tea Party in Des Moines Iowa about the campaign. The conversation quickly moved from the candidates themselves (Romney, what else can you …The Morning PlumWashington Post (blog)DNC chairwoman says Obama will have best-run campaign everDesMoinesRegister.comWhat Mitt Might Mean For StocksSeeking Alphaall 64 news articles » [...]

  6. Eddie York

    Expand High 5 Gaurdian!!!! Michelle Obama's speech in Rhode Island would have been a humiliating experience for any relative of hers, with the exception of her Racist Husband.

    Anyone who wants to get an inside look into this womans heart and mind shoud read her Princeton Thesis. There is a searchable version on the Net at this link:

    She is as twisted as Barack, a Liar and a Dem Fabricator.

  7. landon

    She is not old!!!

  8. Andrea

    Damn! I should be surprised by some of the ugly comments regarding this article but I am not. As a child and witnessing one of my relatives being beaten by a group of men wearing sheets. I can only wonder why a person is still judged by the color of his skin.

  9. mar

    i do not know why people judged by color because god put us her in all color to get along with each other im a white woman who has black kids my son was about 5year old he said mommy why that woman call me out of my name i ask him who did that he said the woman next door to us i ask him what she call him he said i will get him for saying it i said tell me she call a 5year old boy a fucker ass black boy tell him to go back where he came from i m white the woman was white i went to her and ask her why would you say that to a 5 year old she said i should not be with a black man or have black kids i said i can and will be with who i want and if you ever call any of my kids out of there name you will have to deal with me i do not like that we all have the same blood i do not like people like that

  10. [...] to an Obama vs. Romney campaign as Frasier vs. Niles, or comparing Barack and Michelle to Aunt Viv and Uncle Phil I might need to start spinning a top before I write my next [...]

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