Michelle Obama Hugging Her Way to Nation’s Heart

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Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Michelle Obama’s hugs — once the source of a minor diplomatic scandal when she embraced the Queen of England — are now the keystone of her campaign, Jodi Kantor, the first couple’s biographer, wrote in the New York Times.

Although the first lady is known to deliver “scathing critiques of Republicans” in private, Kantor writes, her advisers think “she is most potent when she does not appear overtly political and that she comes across best as a gracious noncombatant in the red-and-blue wars.” Translation: Obama is hugging her way out of the “angry black woman” stereotype, which, coincidentally, the first lady thought Kantor’s biography of her propagated. Obama’s aides say the hug is not a political tactic, but an attempt to “narrow the gap” — both in literal height and stature — between her and the voters, Olympic athletes, and schoolchildren whom she’s embracing.

“Who can be opposed to a hug from a tall, beautiful woman?” said Kati Marton, author of “Hidden Power,” about presidential marriages. “In this divisive climate, to be the hugger in chief is all that our first lady can do.”

Ironically, some radicals think that the “highly educated professional partnership” the Obamas have, which is obscured by the first lady’s “hugs not ideas” campaign, is actually appealing to voters and will be highlighted by the first lady's speech at the Democratic National Convention tonight. Politico says her speech will not be as moony-eyed as Ann Romney's. “[Ann] Romney’s message was a message that seemed to reflect an old-fashioned domestic bliss time of white picket fences,” Ruth Mandel, director of the Eagleton Institute told Politico. “I would be surprised if her speech appealed to women who are swing voters, working women, single heads of households.”

Perhaps the Obama campaign could exploit this gap in what people want from a first lady for fund-raising purposes: Donate $10,000 and Michelle Obama will not only hug you, she’ll tell you what she really thinks of Mitt Romney.