Barack’s Not-So-Secret Weapon

One running sub-myth of the Clinton/Obama saga is that Obama is outnumbered. Hillary has Bill and Chelsea, the thinking goes, which gives her an edge on the campaign trail. She even had them touring as full surrogates in South Carolina. One of the campaign’s tensest moments came at the Myrtle Beach debate in January, when Obama snapped, “I can’t tell who I’m running against sometimes.”

But to say that Obama is outnumbered is to discount his wife, Michelle. She has been a strong presence on the trail, often revealing details about her husband and their relationship that bring him down to earth. Her oratory skills rival that of her husband, and her bold words have drawn admiration and scorn alike. And now it looks like she’s drawing crowds that compete with Bill’s.

Michelle Obama spoke to a crowd of 1,200 at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore Monday morning. That’s not spouse numbers. That’s candidate numbers. (John Edwards regularly drew fewer than that in Iowa and New Hampshire.) More importantly, that’s former president numbers.

At a Bill Clinton rally at George Mason University, roughly 1,500 people showed up . Sure, Michelle was speaking at a highly pro-Obama historically black college. But George Mason is the second largest university in Virginia, and Bill is one of the most famous people on the planet. That their crowds are even comparable should say something about Michelle’s effectiveness as a surrogate.  

Assuming her crowds remain strong, Obama’s defenders can stop describing the race as a triple team. Three-on-two is more like it.