David Michael Miller
Michelle Obama shrugged off the details, acknowledging that 'plans are important' but saying that 'a lot of this stuff isn't rocket science.'
This second spousal rally running up to Tuesday's primary election offered a distinct contrast to Bill Clinton's stump appearance for Hillary at the Stock Pavilion last week. While Bill Clinton's speech was heavy on policy, Michelle Obama's was heavy on inspiration: "Everything begins and ends with a little bit of hope and a whole lot of dreaming," she said.
Michelle Obama spoke at the 1,100-seat Capitol Theater in the Overture Center to a slightly less than full house. Although mixed in age, the crowd was weighted to people in their 60s and older -- some retired, some off from work for President's Day.
Michelle Obama, often cited as having personal charisma that nearly matches her husband's, gave a very personal speech.
She retold the unlikely story of how this "nice young man" came from being written off as a candidate to winning the Iowa caucuses, then the "tremendous victory" of a close second-place finish in New Hampshire and the primary wins since then.
Each time the Obama campaign had a victory, Michelle Obama said, it was as if the Powers That Be "moved the bar" in terms of what it would take for Obama to be taken seriously. She likened that to the way middle-class American families feel as they try to get ahead: "You reach the goal and they move the bar; that's what's happening to regular folks all across the nation."
While Bill Clinton's speech to a mostly undergraduate crowd last week went into details on Hillary Clinton's proposals for reforming health care, affording higher education and dealing with the mortgage crisis, Michelle Obama shrugged off the details, acknowledging that "plans are important" but saying that "a lot of this stuff isn't rocket science." Rather, the American public needs "leadership that will inspire."
There were several semi-veiled references to her husband's opponent in the race belonging to a "political dynasty."
"I know there are undecided people here," Michelle Obama said, reminding the audience that the presidential race "is about character," not just what a person does when the spotlight of the presidency is upon him (or her), but "choices made over their lifetimes -- what did they do in the shadows?"
In terms of the Obama platform, she mentioned nothing more specific than how Barack Obama's globetrotting childhood would help him understand different cultures worldwide and build bridges to countries that presumably came to distrust the United States during the George W. Bush administration.
In closing, Michelle Obama again obliquely compared her husband to President Bush: "He will not be a perfect president, but he will admit his mistakes and he will work hard every day to stop the bar from moving."
As the crowd exited, many Obama campaign volunteers urged audience members to sign volunteer forms, handed out free posters and stickers, and encouraged people to get their friends and neighbors to vote on Tuesday.
Plenty of them were signing up.