Setting Sights on the White House, Michelle Obama Puts Career on Hold

Mrs. Obama trades private life and career for public scrutiny.

MANCHESTER, N.H., April 6, 2007 — -- The main room in Obama for America headquarters was already buzzing with excitement after news broke that the junior-senator-from-Illinois-turned-presidential-prospect had raised $25 million dollars in just three months.

But the attention quickly turned to the 5-foot-11-inch beauty strolling into the room with the body of a basketball player and the poise of a ballet dancer.

Wearing all black and a single strand of over-size pearls, Michelle Obama took the microphone, marking her first trip to New Hampshire, home to the nation's first presidential primary.

It Takes Two

On the campaign stump for her husband, standing before a group of 150 mostly women voters, Michelle Obama began to tell her and her husband's love story.

Calling him a "hot shot" law student, Obama recounted how she was assigned to be her would-be suitor's summer coordinator when she was an associate at Sidley Austin law firm.

Admitting some trepidation about his background, she joked, "Any black guy who spent his formative years on an island is weird," referring to her future husband's upbringing in Hawaii.

Despite her initial concerns, she said that over their first lunch she knew not only that he was "cute, and that helped," but that he was special. She was impressed by his perseverance and consistency, and it mattered to her that he placed the highest importance on family and community.

Michelle Obama said she married her husband because of their shared values, and that also just so happens to be why she's so supporting his run for the White House.

"I know Barack has the values. It's much less important to know what senators have been in Washington for 'X' amount of years and checked off boxes in their career path," she said. "Barack is not one to check off boxes."

Spouse's Role

The 43-year-old career woman talked about her role in the campaign saying, "I'm not only a surrogate for Barack, but I'm also a surrogate ear to listen."

Obama responded to questions about the impact the campaign might have on her family, promising that she wouldn't let the campaign take away from her two girls, Malia, 8, and Sasha, 6.

She joked that the campaign comes at the perfect time, because they are "at that age where they are clueless about anything other than having to do with them."

But the presidential campaign of her husband has already forced her to scale back her job as a vice president for community and external relations at the University of Chicago Medical Center.

Obama now works part-time and hinted that she may take a leave of absence, smiling as she told the crowd, "That's still being worked out. I can do a lot but I can't do everything."

Her impending leave of absence and her visit to the important primary state of New Hampshire serve as barometers to Michelle Obama's role in the greater campaign.

Her visit to Iowa last weekend was her first solo trip since her husband formally announced his candidacy, and she promised that New Hampshire would see her many times again.

After about 20 minutes of handshaking, hugging, picture taking and smiling to the voters in Manchester, she was whisked away to a house party in nearby Concord.

Voters squeezed in, once again, for a chance to see the statuesque beauty.

And Michelle Obama, just a few months ago a private citizen married to a rising Democratic star, once again, smiled and posed for pictures.

It is likely only the first, as she predicted, of many campaign trips to come.