Michelle Obama keeps focus on her family

CHICAGO -- On the day she became the next first lady, Michelle Obama worked her usual double shift: campaigner and mom.

As she has since her husband, Democrat Barack Obama, started running for president 20 months ago, Michelle Obama toggled on Tuesday between campaigning and wrangling the couple's two daughters, Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7.

She voted with her husband, greeted by news reporters and a long line of voters. She took so long to fill out the paper ballot that Barack Obama joked afterward, "I had to check to see who she was voting for." Then she dropped her children at school.

Like her husband's former Democratic rival Hillary Rodham Clinton, Obama will be a first lady who is a lawyer and working mother, with degrees from Princeton and Harvard.

And like her husband, she will break a barrier: a descendant of slaves moving into the White House as first lady.

Described by campaign aides as initially reluctant about her husband's run for president, Obama, 44, became a dedicated campaigner. On Tuesday, she sat for more than a dozen interviews by satellite with television stations in battleground states, says her spokeswoman, Katie McCormick Lelyveld.

At home, squeezed between the girls' return from school and a family dinner that included her brother, Oregon State basketball coach Craig Robinson, she conducted radio interviews by phone.

The Chicago native made early missteps. In February, she took fire after saying voters' desire for change made her proud of her country "for the first time in my adult lifetime."

She tried to smooth her image by appearances on friendly TV shows — from the coffee klatch of The View to the mock inquisition of The Colbert Report — and with interviews in women's magazines.

The campaign repeatedly said she never spent more than a night away from her children, and they never missed school or a soccer game because Mom was helping Dad run for president. The Obama girls will be the youngest children to live in the White House since President Kennedy's children.

Many of Obama's campaign events focused on military families and women's economic issues. Those may be her concerns as first lady, Lelyveld says, but no decisions have been made.

"She obviously has those ideas of what she'd want to work on, but as far as adjusting to the role," she hasn't looked past Election Day, Lelyveld says. "She'll cross the rest of the bridges when she gets there."