The wife of Sen. Barack Obama may be called the "black Jackie," with her stylish dress, chunk pearls and attractive young children. But Jackie Kennedy came from a wealthy background and devoted her efforts when first lady to redecorating the White House.
"Michelle Obama is a different animal than any other first lady ever," said Berkowitz. "She is this sort of black, upwardly mobile, upper-class type. She is not that aristocratic, but very often the high-achieving black world has its own rules and … decorum."
Michelle Obama, 48, has been an almost constant campaigner for her husband and is comfortable on the stump as well as before cameras, such as when she appeared on ABC's "The View," where she talked about her family as well as her husband's policies.
"Michelle is a great asset, who talks about her daughters and leaving the world a better place for our [children] to have equal rights and equal opportunities," said Gandy.
Like Jackie Kennedy and Hillary Clinton, she has vowed to protect her two young daughters, Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7, from intrusive publicity, and that could shape her White House interests.
As a working mother, Obama's central theme could be balancing home and work. "How do contemporary women fulfill their own series while also fulfilling their desire for family?" asked Harris-Lacewell. "How do they support their husbands without getting lost in their identities?"
Harris-Lacewell also suggested that Michelle Obama may champion issues involving her children as they grow, such as gender equality and education.
Michelle Obama has hinted that she will have the first lady's office in the East Wing of the White House, where the family resides, and not in the West Wing, where government is carried out and where Hillary Clinton set up shop.
"My job is not a senior adviser," Michelle Obama has said.
But Michelle Obama has shown herself to be a hands-on person. She is a cum laude graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School. A former dean at the University of Chicago and currently a vice president at the University of Chicago Hospitals, she sits on six boards, including the prestigious Chicago Council on Global Affairs.
At the same time, however, Harris-Lacewell said Michelle Obama is cut from a "traditional mold."
"Michelle gave [Barack Obama] a sense of grounding and purpose in Chicago," said Anthony. "She gave him a sense of home."
There is a touch of "Jackie" in Cindy McCain, too, with her designer label outfits and perfectly coiffed appearance. But there is also a thread of steel running through her quiet demeanor.
Her mettle was on display eight years ago when her husband's challenge to George Bush was torpedoed in the South Carolina primary with a smear campaign that included the accusation that their adopted daughter from Bangladesh was the result of an affair McCain had had.
"Eight years ago, she had incredible dignity and was a fierce advocate of her own adopted daughter," Harris-Lacewell said. "She is a woman of more substance than people imagine."
Cindy McCain, 54, has also been battle hardened with her own personal disclosures. In 1994, she beat newspapers to the revelation that she had been addicted to painkillers Percocet and Vicodin after spinal surgery for ruptured disks. The addiction led her to steal drugs from her own nonprofit medical relief organization. She subsequently sought outpatient treatment.