Mrs. Obama: From Spouses' Circuit To Campaign Trail

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Michelle Obama at Stone Barns Center in Pocantico Hills, N.Y.

First lady Michelle Obama (center) and her counterparts from Colombia -- Maria Clemencia Rodriguez de Santos (second right) -- and Haiti -- Elisabeth D. Preval (right) -- talk with schoolchildren and chef Dan Barber during a visit to Stone Barns Center in Pocantico Hills, N.Y. Friday's visit was part of a tour hosted by Obama for spouses of the heads of government attending the United Nations General Assembly. Stan Honda/AFP hide caption

toggle caption Stan Honda/AFP

The White House granted many Democrats' wish this week, announcing that Michelle Obama will campaign for midterm candidates.

But she's not on the stump just yet.

Her first fundraiser is in mid-October, and, by that point, the campaign will be hot and heavy. In the meantime, she's doing events that are a little more light and breezy.

On Friday, Obama hosted a few dozen other first ladies for a break from the United Nations General Assembly meeting. They traveled to a nonprofit farm and educational center outside of Manhattan that also happens to house a world-class restaurant.

Down On The Farm

A flock of turkeys greeted the motorcade at the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, where the leaves were starting to turn and the fields giving up the last of their summer vegetables.

The women had been told to dress for a farm, but there were at least a few Chanel suits and five-inch heels. The tour started at an outdoor chicken coop, where Sarah Hannah was teaching third-graders from a local school how to gather eggs without getting scratched.

The entourage went on to the tomato fields, the greenhouses and the herb garden — where Mrs. Obama declared, "This is the best-smelling part of the whole farm!"

Restaurant captain Adile Laroussie was turning glasses of fresh herbs into tea for his visitors.

A group of students picked basil for a salad, while other kids showed Obama how to suck the nectar from the base of a purple flower called agastache.

Inside Blue Hill restaurant, a string quartet from Juilliard welcomed the first ladies into lunch.

Before the meal, Obama explained how the work of this center dovetails with her effort to fight childhood obesity.

"Many of these kids may never learn that ketchup comes from a tomato or that french fries actually come from a potato, because they're very disconnected from the food that they eat," she said.

Popularity Politics

A few minutes from Stone Barns, a two-term House Democrat is in a tight re-election race.

But he could have been light years away.

It will be a few more weeks before the first lady wades into the morass of campaigning and fundraising. It's not for lack of demand.

In New York on Thursday, President Obama acknowledged that his wife wins the popularity contests in this administration.

"I feel grateful that Michelle — so far, at least — has not run for any offices I've been running for," he said. "She would beat me thoroughly."

Pretty much every first lady in recent history has been more popular than her husband. No doubt that has something to do with first ladies' reluctance to get their hands dirty — at least in politics.



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