Michelle Obama makes her debut appearance on ABC's "The View" Wednesday as her husband, presumptive Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama, fights for key women voters.
Her appearance on a popular women's daytime television program coincides with subtle attempts by the Obama campaign to soften her image and combat efforts by some conservatives and critics to paint her as an unpatriotic, angry, black woman.
Obama, 44, would become the nation's first African American first lady if her husband wins the White House in November, and one of the youngest since Jackie Kennedy.
Mrs. Obama co-hosts the program Wednesday alongside regulars including Barbara Walters, Whoopi Goldberg, and Elisabeth Hasselbeck who grilled Obama's husband on the show last March for their association with Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
"She needs to relax, show she has a sense of humor and is someone who can laugh at herself," said Myra Gutin, a first lady historian at New Jersey's Rider University and author of the 1989 book The President's Partner: The First Lady in the 20th Century.
Michelle Obama is viewed more favorably by likely voters than Cindy McCain, 48 percent to 39 percent, according to a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll. But while Obama leads in favorability, many voters say they haven't formed an opinion yet of McCain, and slightly more voters also view Obama unfavorably -- 29 percent vs. McCain's 25 percent.
Obama has attracted considerably more attention than McCain, sparking conservative outrage when she said at a Wisconsin rally early in the primaries her husband's candidacy was "the first time in my adult life I am proud of my country."
She later clarified her remarks, but the tape has been used in a Tennessee GOP online video criticizing her, and has been replayed numerous times on cable television.
Her campaign also launched an anti-smear website last week to combat false rumors circulating on the Internet, including an untrue claim by a blogger supportive of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's '08 bid that she made an accusatory speech at her church against "whitey."
Fox News Channel depicted her fist "dap" with her husband the night he won the nomination as a "terrorist fist jab" and later identified Michelle Obama with the urban slang "Obama's Baby Mama." Conservative columnist Michelle Malkin called her "his bitter half," and the conservative National Review depicted Michelle Obama with an angry scowl on their cover calling her "Mrs. Grievance."
Obama canceled a scheduled December appearance on the "The View", refusing to cross a picket line during the writer's strike. Cindy McCain, wife of Republican nominee Sen. John McCain guest-hosted in April and Michelle Obama told executive producer Bill Geddie that she'd like to do the same.
"It will be, for many, the first real introduction to the woman who may be our next First Lady," Geddie told the New York Daily News.
Her campaign staff told ABC News she hasn't really been preparing for the show, but was "brushing up" on Matthew Broderick, the show's celebrity guest interview, and refreshing her memory of Broderick's "Ferris Bueller" movie shot in Chicago, which Sen. Obama represents.
Onstage, Barack Obama has introduced his wife as "his rock" -- the one who keeps him grounded and focused.