Obama Grants First Family Interview to 'Access Hollywood'

What do Angelina Jolie's pregnancy, Alex Rodriguez's love life, and Barack Obama have in common? Not much until now.

Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., appears in a sit-down interview with his wife Michelle and daughters, Tuesday on "Access Hollywood," a nightly entertainment news program that's more apt to focus on the tawdry tales of Hollywood than the inner workings of Washington.

A hard-hitting interview on Obama's plans for Iraq or the economy, it was not.

But it does mark the first time the entire Obama family -- including daughters Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7 -- sat down for a family interview, though the Obama campaign insists it wasn't planned that way.

Public Figures, Private Lives

The interview, taped on the Fourth of July while the family vacationed in Butte, Mont., was far from the prying eyes of the horde of journalists that trail Obama every day during the campaign.

The interview raised the public profile of Obama's young children.

Malia told entertainment reporter Maria Menounos she's looking forward to decorating her room in the White House if her father wins in November.

"I enjoy decorating, so I get this whole new room to do whatever I want," Malia said, according to excepts provided by "Access Hollywood."

Children of presidential contenders have often been used in presidential campaign politics, often trotted out at victory rallies and posing for family photos.

But the balance between the public spotlight and private life can be tricky.

Chelsea Clinton, at 28, is almost 20 years older than the eldest Obama daughter, but has never granted an interview, despite being a near constant presence on the campaign trail for her mother's 2008 presidential election bid.

She even refused an interview during the primary season from a nine-year-old Scholastic News "kid reporter."

"Do you think your dad would be a good 'first man' in the White House?" Sydney Rieckhoff, a fourth grade student from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, asked Clinton in December.

"I'm sorry, I don't talk to the press, and that applies to you, unfortunately. Even though I think you're cute," Chelsea Clinton told the pint-sized journalist.

McCain's daughter, Meghan, 23, launched her own blog musing about politics and fashion, and many of the grown children of the 2008 presidential candidates appeared publicly to campaign for their parents.

Less is known about McCain's daughter Bridget, 16, who the McCains adopted as a baby from Bangladesh, or McCain's son Jimmy, 20, a Marine who returned home from Iraq in February.

Though, in fairness, Bridget McCain didn't take the Clinton route -- she did grant an interview to Scholastic News late last year.

The Obamas have largely shielded their daughters from the national media spotlight to date, but the campaign said the girls were eager to talk to entertainment reporter Maria Menounos and her boyfriend because she had recently interviewed the Jonas Brothers, a teen pop band.

The Obama campaign said they became so comfortable that they decided to join the interview, which the campaign characterizes as a whim.

During the interview, Malia appears personable and well-spoken, joking that she has given her father advice on how to greet her young friends after the Illinois senator tried to shake their hands.

"You really don't shake kids' hands that much ... You just wave or say 'Hi,'" she said she told her father.

Malia also told Menounos that she likes it when "Mommy and Daddy hold hands.

"Sometimes people think it is embarrassing," Malia said. "I like it."

During the interview, Michelle Obama also ribs her husband about his fashion sense.

"I think it's funny that he's involved in this fashion icon stuff, because these pants he's probably had for about 10 years," Michelle Obama told Menounos.

McCain Struggles to Win Spotlight

Obama's interview with "Access Hollywood" -- airing over four nights, beginning Tuesday on a show that garners millions of viewers -- comes as presumptive Republican nominee Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., struggles to keep himself in the media spotlight.

The Arizona Republican relaunched his campaign this week after shaking up his campaign operations, and has tried to re-introduce himself with a biographical tour and television ads highlighting his Vietnam war hero record.

Republican pollster David Winston said, rather than engage in a war of candidate personalities, the challenge for McCain is to convince voters he would be a better president on issues, such as the economy and Iraq.

"Obama's going to win the soft side of this because, as the first African American, there's something unique about him, so people are interested," Winston said. "McCain is a war hero, but the key for the McCain campaign will be to shift the focus to the issues, and I think they're evolving on that now."

Winston admitted the McCain campaign has struggled in defining him against Obama, but said the next phase of the campaign is what counts.

"I think you're going to see a shift where McCain is going to lay out where he is on the issues," Winston said, "This is a center-right country and he is a center-right candidate, so that focus on issues has to be the strategy."

Winning the White House on Television

Appearing on infotainment programs and entertainment talk shows is nothing new for either Obama or McCain.

McCain was the first sitting U.S. senator to host "Saturday Night Live" in 2002, and has appeared numerous times on "The Daily Show with John Stewart," and late night comedy programs, including "Jimmy Kimmel Live."

Obama launched his 2006 autobiography, "The Audacity of Hope," on the Oprah Winfrey Show, and last month, the entertainment magazine Us Weekly splashed the senator and his wife on their cover -- a first for any presidential contender.

Media analysts argue that appearing on so-called "soft news" programs could be smart politicking when it comes to reaching the millions of Americans who don't follow every nuance of the long presidential campaign.

"Shows, such as 'Access Hollywood' reach individuals difficult to reach through other types of programming, who are less likely to already have decided for whom to vote, than are those in the audience for news programming," said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a presidential scholar and director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania.

ABC News' Sunlen Miller, with the Obama campaign, contributed to this report.