The first lady will make her case to millions of Americans on Tuesday when she headlines the first night of the Democratic Party's national convention, where two days later her husband will accept the party's presidential nomination for a second time. Her high-profile appearance underscores her key role in his re-election bid: chief defender of his character and leader in efforts to validate the direction he is taking the country.
Once the reluctant political spouse, she has embraced that mission to sell her husband anew throughout the summer while raising money for the campaign and speaking at rallies in battleground states.
These days, Mrs. Obama's speeches are peppered with references to the president's upbringing in Hawaii, where he was raised by a single mother and his grandparents. She talks about the student loans he took out to pay for college and the years it took to pay them back.
When Romney accused Obama of running a "campaign of hate," the first lady delivered Obama's strongest counterpoint — without mentioning the Republican candidate. "We all know who my husband is, don't we? And we all know what he stands for," she said, standing alongside the president at a campaign rally in Iowa.
Key to Mrs. Obama's campaign strategy is maintaining her own personal appeal.
(...) Aides say she will sprinkle her remarks Tuesday with a defense of the president's policies, including the health care law and the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which was the first legislation Obama signed into law. The act makes it easier for women to sue for equal pay if they earn less than their male counterparts. Obama has made the law a key part of his election year appeal to women, who could give him an edge over Romney in a tight race.