Michelle Obama on Keeping Marriage, Politics Separate

First lady talks about her strategy for keeping her daughters grounded in the White House.
3:00 | 10/08/12

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Transcript for Michelle Obama on Keeping Marriage, Politics Separate
It has been a bit of a rough patch for president obama following his roundly criticized debate performance last week. Times like these a compassionate partner and not so secret weapon are appreciated more than ever and ov the last several months MY CO-ANCHOR cynthia McFadden was granted rare access to that person, first lady michelle obama. Good to see you, by questions and small? Absolutely. Good evening. That's right. What's it really like to be married to the leader of the free world and raise children in the white house and how involved is she in setting the president's political agenda? Well, we asked michelle obama those questions and many others at the white house and on the road. The election now only 29 days away, tonight, a close look at the first lady, for our special seri series, "the contenders, family ties." It's hard to imagine he was ever reluctant to play the role. Serving as your first lady is an honor and a privilege. But back when we first came together four years ago I still had some concerns about this journey we'd begun. Reporter: In a candid white house interview the first lady explained what it was like for The political life wasn't my first choice. We had been doing this for a while and you know, the toll that this takes on a family is real. So he knew enough to know that this wasn't just a sure, honey, whatever you want. Reporter: If you had said no, we can't do this, would we not be sitting here today. We would not, that's why i couldn't say no. Reporter: Her brother craig robinson remembers then-senator obama enlisted him to help sell her on the idea to convince him to run for president. He said I think I'll take a run at the presidency, I was like what? If you talked to your wife about in? He was like, no, he says to me, you got to do me favor, you got to talk to her because she's not going to go for it. I was like, you're right, darn right she's not going to go for it. Reporter: Craig tells me -- yeah. Reporter: -- Your husband was outright nervous to tell you that he wanted to run for president. Is he a little bit intimidated, a little bit afraid of you, do you think. No, not at all. This is one of the things I love about barack, he's so used to having strong women in his life, it's odd, I tell him that this is somehow god keeping his testosterone in check, because really he's surrounded by women. He grew up with a single mom, his grandmother was the true head of the household. He married me, he's got malia and sasha who do not mince their words and he's sustained himself through a life a strong women. Reporter: Her strength comes from the way she grew up, the south side of chicago where he father worked as a pump operator for the city and her mother a homemaker to the hall was princeton, where her parents proudly sacrificed so she and her brother could get an ivy league education. I choke up when I talk about this stuff because it is why we're here. Reporter: Needless to say her own daughters inhabit a much different world. Sasha is now 11 and malia, a teenager. It's hard enough to be 14 if your parents aren't the president and first lady. How do you help her negotiate that real ly fren ly teacherous territory of 14? We don't do the oh, woe is me thing, she's got a great life, she's got great friends, she's happy. It's kind of hard, especially as we point out, look around. You want to see hardship? You want to see struggle? You don't have it, kid, having the president as your father way down on the list of tough. Just like, you'll be fine. Reporter: She often refers to herself as mom in chief she comes to the role with a high-powered pedigree, graduate of harvard law school he ultimately walked way from her career so her husband could pursue his political ambitions. I'm his biggest supporter. Reporter: Are you also, brutally honest? I'm honest, absolutely. Reporter: You think something has not gone right you say -- if I think it will help him but I also temper my remarks because sometimes you know, in a job like this, the last thing the president of the united states needs when he walks in the door to come home is somebody who is drilling him and questioning him about the decisions and choices that he's made. So, there are definitely times when I may feel something but I'll hold back because I'll know he'll either get to that on his own or just not time. Reporter: Outside the white house, there is always lots of chatter about how much is the first lady influencing policy? How do you see your role in that regard? I rarely step foot in the west wing. In fact, people are shocked when they see me there but rarely walk in that office because the truth is, he's got so many wonderful advisers, so I don't even have the expertise and the time in to be able to provide the kind of advice and guidance that he's already getting. Reporter: I guess always the pillow at night if you really feel passionate about something. Win orose thiselection, she says, she's come to love the job she was so reluctant to pursue. Not only are you the first lady but you have a historic role as the first african-american first lady. Did that come with extra pressures and responsibilities? I haven't had time to solely step back and reflect yet on my role as the first african-american. I just want to make sure that I'm doing a good job. Reporter: Is it different to be a black child growing up in america today than it was four years ago? You know what, I think that because bah rorack and I are heren a do think kids today see a bigger world and understand and it's not so threatening -- Reporter: As an example a photo that hangs in the hall outside the oval office. Showing a little boy who had asked the president does your hair feel like mine? And barack said why don't you touch it? And bhent over and after he touched it he said, yeah, it does feel like mine. It speaks to who my husband is at his core. If this is what it takes to make all kids in this country feel some kind of connection to this place and to these opportunities and see themselves in these seats and to thrive, every single one of our kids, he'll do it and I'll do it and that's what makes this job so special. And tomorrow night we continue our series with the first lady as we travel with her to florida for a cause close to her heart. Bill? We'll look forward to that as well. Thank you.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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