When Michelle Obama moved into the White House, she instantly became one of the most famous first ladies in history, a symbol of racial pride, a victor in the battle of the sexes and the picture of a modern woman, mother and wife.
But from her days on the campaign trail to her residency in the White House, Obama’s favorability rating has been in flux, from a low of 48 percent in June 2008 to a peak of 72 percent last March to a slide to 61 percent in a recent Gallup Poll.
That 11-point stumble – some might call it a tumble – seems at odds with the focus of a White House publicity team that is carefully crafting her image and building a decidedly current, wholesome, upbeat brand. But while Obama has broadened the reach of her office, White House observers say that the role and projects she has embraced so far are seen by some as disappointingly traditional.
“If you asked most people, they would say she defines her job as first lady as taking care of her family, and maybe that’s what the White House wants — what she wants,” said first lady historian Betty Boyd Caroli. “A lot of people appreciate that, but some people wanted more, and maybe that’s why the numbers are dipping.”
Like her husband, Obama moved into the White House with outsize expectations from different and sometimes competing constituencies: fashionistas, black women, working women, working mothers, stay-at-home mothers, feminists, post-feminists — all identify with her.
“There was so much pressure on her as the first African-American first lady to be out there and performing in the public eye, and she did get a nice start, visiting the agencies, planting the garden and letting people see this side of her,” said Anita McBride, chief of staff to Laura Bush, whose job approval ratings once stood at 85 percent — the best ever recorded for a first lady. (continues here at POLITICO)