The Wildly Popular First Lady
by Jonathan Singer, Fri Apr 24, 2009 at 12:55:10 PM EDT
These numbers are pretty remarkable:
Barack Obama's approval ratings are good. Michelle Obama's are better.
In a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll taken Monday and Tuesday, 79% say they approve of the way Michelle Obama is handling the job of first lady. Just 8% disapprove.
To compare, her husband's rating in the Gallup Poll released Thursday is 65% approval, 29% disapproval -- undeniably a healthy rating. Even so, asked about her stronger showing, senior White House adviser David Axelrod jokes, "Fortunately, she's agreed not to run against us."
What's more, while the president's rating shows a sharp partisan divide -- Democrats overwhelmingly approve of him but most Republicans don't -- Michelle Obama's appeal crosses party lines. Almost every Democrat expresses approval, 94%-1%. Even among Republicans, her approval rating is 64%-17%.
Don't believe that Michelle Obama, who during the campaign was not the most popular national political figure, could be this popular today? Take a look at the latest numbers from The Pew Research Center and think again.
Not only is Michelle Obama highly popular relative to other current political figures, she is also historically popular compared to other first ladies, making her one heck of a surrogate for her husband's administration. I would not be at all surprised, then, to see Michelle Obama hitting the hustings more and more in the coming months as the White House tackles increasingly ambitious issues -- including, and particularly, healthcare. Though I do not foresee Michelle Obama holding the same role that Hillary Clinton did in her husband's push for universal coverage, given Michelle Obama's immense popularity and background working in hospitals, she would be a major asset for the White House and could be an important part of the administration's efforts to make sure that no American has to go without healthcare.