Michelle Obama's Role At The Convention Michelle Obama speaks Monday night at the Democratic National Convention. Her primary role will be to paint a solid picture of her husband, Barack Obama, as a family man, says Slate.com's Chief Political Correspondent John Dickerson.
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Michelle Obama's Role At The Convention

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Michelle Obama's Role At The Convention

Michelle Obama's Role At The Convention

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This is Day to Day. I'm Madeleine Brand.


I'm Alex Chadwick. Tens of millions of kids are preparing to go back to school. And when we say preparing, we mean dreading. But one high school in Los Angeles says it can get students excited. This is the latest in our California Dreaming series coming up.

BRAND: First, some excitement. In Denver, the Democratic National Convention begins today. Michelle Obama will be tonight's keynote speaker.

CHADWICK: Joining us from Denver is slate.com's political correspondent, John Dickerson. John, what do you expect to hear from Michelle Obama?

Mr. JOHN DICKERSON (Political Reporter, Slate.com): Well, I expect to hear about Barack Obama the person. You know, one of the two big goals of this convention is conveying some sense of who he is, what his values are, what he's like, sort of, in his heart. And Michelle Obama is the best person to tell that story. She will talk about his biography but also about him as a father and as a family man because that's something people can relate to.

CHADWICK: Mrs. Obama seems like such an arresting, interesting figure, John. How does the campaign deal with her? She's maybe even more electric than he is.

Mr. DICKERSON: Well, she is a fascinating figure, and she is electric and interesting in the way that the senator is in those two qualities. But electric and interesting is not always politically wonderful, you know, especially when you're trying to reach voters who have some concerns about the man at the top of the ticket.

And so what the campaign is trying to do is put Mrs. Obama in a kind of a softer light, put her in venues. She was on "The View." She's talked to some of these family magazines to kind of soften her profile. She had one controversial remark about loving her country for the first time. She got a nice assist from Mrs. Bush, the current first lady, who said her remarks had been taken - you know, sort of been blown out of proportion. The big challenge for her is to come across as an approachable person that voters can also connect with, aside from whatever views they may have about her husband.

CHADWICK: There are reports we've seen at politico.com today about an ongoing feud between aides in the Obama campaign and the Clinton camp. What are you hearing about that?

Mr. DICKERSON: Well, you know, there is tension, and there will be forever more between these two rivals. It's hard to tell how much of that attention is confected, how much of it is real, how much of it is shared by the principles, which is to say the two Clintons and Senator Obama. But it's clear from recent polling that Senator Obama has some issues, has a little bit of a problem with Hillary Clinton's former supporters. He needs to fix that, and this convention is one place he can do that.

CHADWICK: He's certainly got problems with one of those supporters. Here's an ad the McCain campaign has put out today.

Ms. DEBRA BARTOSHEVICH: (Hillary Clinton Supporter, McCain Political Advertisement): I'm a proud Hillary Clinton Democrat. Share the experience and judgment to be president. Now, in a first for me, I'm supporting a Republican, John McCain.

CHADWICK: Her name is Debra Bartoshevich, and she comes out and says there are lots of Democrats like me. Senator Obama has to hope that's not true.

Mr. DICKERSON: He does, and, you know, I was very skeptical of this notion of a lot of Hillary supporters going to support McCain or not voting for Obama. But the polls have been very strong on this point. And, in fact, Obama's position with these voters has slipped. About 30 percent of them, in a variety of different polls, former Hillary supporters say they're not going to vote for Obama. That's as bad as it was in the most heated moments of the Democratic primary. He did a little bit better during the summer, but now, it's back to those bad levels. So this is a problem.

We should note, though, in the larger question about women in general, that important swing group in the election, Barack Obama still beats John McCain by about 20 points. So McCain here is trying to create a little mischief. Obama does have a problem, but he doesn't have a problem with that larger group of women.

CHADWICK: John, there's someone else at that convention today whose name matters a lot to the Democrats, Senator Ted Kennedy. It was uncertain whether or not, with this brain cancer that he's undergoing treatment for, uncertain that he would make it to the convention. But apparently, he did fly in last night.

Mr. DICKERSON: That's right, and this is going to be a very big and dramatic moment. There's always a big dramatic Kennedy moment at these Democratic conventions, and this one will be probably through the roof. It was very much touch and go about whether he would make it, and it will be a very important symbolism because it will be, again, the passing of the torch in the - and we talked a lot about the Clinton conflict with the Obama team, but the Kennedys are, you know, the heart of this Democratic party. Here is the supposed - the lion of that family handing over the mantle to Barack Obama. Very important symbolism for Democrats.

CHADWICK: John Dickerson, chief political correspondent for slate.com. John, thank you again.

Mr. DICKERSON: Thanks, Alex.

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