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Michelle Obama on charm campaign

20 March 2012, 10:34

New York - First Lady Michelle Obama has kicked off an election-year charm offensive with an appearance at a celebrity campaign event and some light-hearted banter on a late night comedy show.

At a dinner hosted by actor Robert De Niro in New York, Obama delivered her own version of the president's standard stump speech in which she vaunted his accomplishments over the past three years.

"Can I get an 'Amen?'" she asked at one point to applause from the crowd, which included Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein and actors Ben Stiller and Whoopi Goldberg.

Later on Monday, the first lady appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman, where she discussed life in the White House and first dog Bo, whom she referred to as "the smartest dog on the planet."

"He is my son. I have two girls and a boy," she said.

She also talked about recent "covert" shopping trips that allowed her to briefly escape the White House and mingle with ordinary Americans, at least one of whom spoke to her without knowing who she was.

On a more sombre note likely to be sounded throughout the campaign season, Obama spoke about her working class roots on Chicago's South Side and her father, who worked at a municipal water plant.

Working class background

"My father had multiple sclerosis and I never knew him to be able to walk. But my dad worked so hard. And he loved us so much," she said.

"We had rules. We had boundaries, but there wasn't anything my dad wouldn't do for us. And - Don't make me cry... This isn't Oprah," she added, earning a hearty laugh from the crowd.

President Barack Obama's campaign likely hopes that the first lady's working class background - neither of her parents went to college - will help him to connect with Americans struggling through a slow economic recovery.

November's general election will likely turn on whether voters believe Obama has turned around the US economy and deserves a second term or that one of his Republican rivals would be better able to get Americans back to work.




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