News Release: Politics

Aug. 26,  2008

Michelle Obama, DNC Provide Vital Views of Sen. Obama

The first night of the Democratic National Convention was all about making Barack Obama and his family human and accessible, says Emory University political scientist Andra Gillespie. To that end, the night featured testimonials from regular people who have interacted with Senator Obama over the course of his career and campaign and ended with an electrifying speech by Michelle Obama.

"Critics have tried to use Michelle Obama as a lightning rod to destroy her husband’s candidacy. By insinuating that Mrs. Obama is some sort of bitter, left-wing militant, Republicans hope to cast doubts on whether Sen. Obama has the temperament to be president to all Americans," Gillespie says. "By doing so well on Monday night, Mrs. Obama proved that she was as quintessentially American as Laura Bush and as patriotic as Cindy McCain."

Michelle Obama did an excellent job of humanizing her family, Gillespie says.  "She was warm and effusive, confident yet down-to-earth, and there was little doubt from her remarks that she cared about her family and her country."

After a strong start, the Obama campaign needs to continue its work in establishing their candidate. "The Obama campaign has taken a few hits over the last few weeks. His lead over Sen. John McCain has shrunk, and a significant portion of Hillary Clinton supporters express their support for McCain in national polls.  Nearly one in 10 Americans still think Obama is a Muslim," Gillespie says. "Senator Obama clearly has a mild perception problem, and he must use this week’s Democratic National Convention to reintroduce himself to the American public and to dispel these rumors."

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