First lady strikes softer tone on campaign trail

The White House might be engaged in an election year battle with the Chamber of Commerce, but first lady Michelle Obama struck a softer tone in her return to the campaign trail.

Obama was in Milwaukee on Wednesday — the first of several campaign stops she’s making during the next two weeks for embattled Democrats across the country.

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While campaigning for Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), who’s trailing his GOP opponent in recent polls, the first lady worked hard to put a friendly face on her husband's policies.

"I know that for a lot of folks, change hasn’t come fast enough," Obama said. "It hasn’t come fast enough for Barack or for Russ either. Not when so many folks are still looking for work … and struggling to pay the bills … and worrying about providing for their kids."

In recent days, the administration has asked the Chamber to disclose its donor list and criticized the powerful business group for its “anonymous” spending in the 2010 election.

Those kind of attacks were absent from the first lady’s speech.

Instead, she talked about how the president shares the heartache of Americans who are out of work.

"Barack knows that too many folks are out of work right now, and too many paychecks just don’t stretch to cover the bills," Obama said.

Voters have listed the economy as one of their top election-year concerns. Democrats are trying to highlight their efforts to help its recovery.

And Feingold’s race is a good first test for the first lady's campaign chops.

His race is one of nine Democratic-held Senate seats the Cook Report lists as a toss-up.

"He’s been out there every day working hard for families here in Wisconsin," Obama said of Feingold. "And I’m proud to be here for him today."

The first lady will also campaign for Sens. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) along with Illinois Democratic Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias. All are considered competitive races.

She begins her campaign swing as polls show she has higher approval ratings than her husband.

Nearly two-thirds of U.S. adults say they approve of the way Obama is handling her position as first lady, part of the personal popularity that makes her an "invaluable asset," according to the White House.

Sixty-five percent of Americans said they approve of the way Obama is handling her job, according to a CNN/Opinion Research poll released on Wednesday, compared to 25 percent who disapprove of her work. Ten percent had no opinion.

-- Michael O'Brien contributed to this story.