Michelle Obama says president has handled first term with ‘grace and poise’

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Obama compared herself to any other mother in her desire to put her two daughters first.

She also reiterated recent reminders by her husband and the president’s campaign that children should remain “off limits” in attacks on political candidates. The comments followed a recent controversy over remarks Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen made about presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney’s wife, Ann.

Obama said that the support of the country has made being first lady “less stressful than I would have imagined.”

The first lady, who has done an increasing number of interviews as her husband’s reelection campaign heats up, has become a staple in popular culture by shaping her public appearances around audiences her husband ordinarily might not reach, filming cameos on “The Biggest Loser” reality weight-loss competition and “Extreme Home Makeover.”

Obama’s popularity is a political asset during an election year when both sides are accusing the other of waging a “war on women.” Her emphasis on the similarities of families nationwide also deflects the type of criticism Obama attracted during her husband’s first campaign.

She generated her own political controversy in 2008 when she said on the campaign trail, "for the first time in my adult life I am proud of my country because it feels like hope is finally making a comeback." Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin fired back over the comment, suggesting it revealed a level of anti-American exceptionalism also demonstrated by the Obamas’ past affiliations.

Obama played a key role during the recent controversy between Rosen and Romney's campaign. Rosen asserted last week that Ann Romney was unable to weigh in on the economic issues affecting women because she has "never" worked outside the home. Romney’s campaign sought to tie her perceived attitude toward stay-at-home mothers to the president.

Both the president and his wife weighed in on the controversy. Obama expressed his opinion that there’s “no tougher job than being a mom." Michelle Obama tweeted, “Every mother works hard, and every woman deserves to be respected.” Obama told NPR the tweet said everything she needed to on the subject.

President Obama also said, following the Rosen comments, that he believes families of candidates, including spouses, should be treated as “civilians” when it comes to politics.

Michelle Obama weighed in on what has been a firm, unwritten rule of political campaigns.

“You know, let me tell you, the one thing I believe is that families are off-limits,” she told NPR. “And I think my husband said it, and he was clear on that. And I totally agree with him.”

The Obama campaign issued a similar warning earlier this year when Rick Santorum, who has since dropped his bid for the White House, criticized Obama for allowing his teenage daughter to go to Mexico on spring break.

"I'm surprised that Rick Santorum wouldn't agree … that children, for candidate purposes, have always been off-limits in presidential campaigns, and really any campaign," said Obama Deputy Campaign Manager Stephanie Cutter on MSNBC at the time.

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