Michelle Obama Campaigns for Embattled Democrats

October 13, 2010, 7:22 PM EDT

Oct. 13 (Bloomberg) — Michelle Obama made her first foray into congressional campaigning today, starting a cross-country swing on behalf of Democratic candidates in some of the most competitive races in the November election.

She raised money this afternoon for three-term Democratic Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, who is running behind his Republican challenger, businessman Ron Johnson, in most recent state polls. Tonight she raised money in her hometown of Chicago for Democratic candidates including Alexi Giannoulias, who is in a close contest with Republican U.S. Representative Mark Kirk to fill the U.S. Senate seat formerly held by her husband.


She told 700 Democratic donors in Milwaukee at an event for Feingold that the change President Barack Obama promised takes time and that this election is a chance to “finish what we’ve started.” 


“Here is something that I asked you all when I was on the campaign trail, I asked you all to make sure you had my husband’s back, right?” she said. “He cannot do this alone. He needs strong leaders like Russ to help him.”


In contrast to the attacks on Republicans that the president delivers at his campaign stops, the first lady took a softer approach in her speech at the Feingold event.


‘More as a Mom’


“Like every parent I know my girls, my children, are at the center of my world, and my hopes for their future are at the heart of every single thing that I do,” she told members of the audience, who paid between $250 and $500 each to attend. “I come to this stuff more as a mom.”


The message resonated with Tia Johnson, a stay-at-home mother of two young children who lives in Beloit, Wisconsin. 


“Before I had children, I was not much concerned about politics,” she said. “Being a mother, and seeing what my kids are dealing with in school, thinking about the economy and the future, it changes you.”


In Chicago, she carried a similar message to a crowd of about 300 people who paid amounts ranging from $500 a person to $10,000 per couple. The money is being split between the Giannoulias campaign and the state party, according to Giannoulias spokesman Scott Burnham. The first lady also is raising money for three House candidates, including incumbent Representative Debbie Halvorson.


The first lady’s itinerary complements the blitz of political trips by the president in the final weeks before the Nov. 2 elections to decide control of Congress. Their travel provides a road map to the races that the White House views as critical. Her role largely is to rally the party faithful and raise money. 


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