CHARLOTTE — Michelle Obama’s convention message was simple: Barack Obama understands the hardships of working Americans. He’s been there himself.
“For Barack, these issues aren’t political, they’re personal because Barack knows what it means when a family struggles,” she said.
The first lady used the word “struggle” or a variation seven times throughout the speech, much of which was an extended retelling of the Obamas’ pre-politics biography, with a special emphasis on the leaner moments before they made it big.
On the president’s upbringing: “Barack was raised by a single mother who struggled to pay the bills, and by grandparents who stepped in when she needed help.”
On their courtship: “He was the guy whose proudest possession was a coffee table he’d found in a dumpster, and whose only pair of decent shoes was half a size too small.”
On their marriage: “Believe it or not, when we were first married, our combined monthly student loan bills were actually higher than our mortgage. We were so young, so in love — and so in debt.”
The subtext was that wealthy scion Mitt Romney had no such connection to the average American. But the first lady, whose strong popularity comes in part from her avoidance of hard-nosed politics, focused her speech solely on describing her husband’s humble roots and character. There were plenty of more partisan speakers, like the firebrand Ted Strickland or keynote speaker Julián Castro, to make the Romney connection explicit.
“Barack knows the American dream because he’s lived it,” she said. “And he wants everyone in this country to have that same opportunity, no matter who we are, or where we’re from, or what we look like, or who we love.”