CHICAGO -- Michelle Obama gave a hint of what her portfolio may be if she becomes first lady at a fund-raiser Friday for Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.). Former CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson -- of Plamegate fame -- who has been stumping for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) -- was also a featured speaker.
Obama suggested that if she were to become first lady, she would take on women's and family issues, prompted by the stories she has been hearing from females on the campaign trail.
"And if I have the honor of becoming the next first lady, I want to continue these conversations like the ones I've had with these incredible women across the country. I want to ensure that their voices don't get drowned out ever again in Washington."
Michelle Obama's mention of her role as first lady comes as Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) has all but secured the Democratic nomination while Clinton struggles to keep her campaign afloat. On Friday, Sen. Obama for the first time pulled even with Clinton in the superdelegate count -- he gained nine party leaders and elected officials compared with two who came out for Clinton.
Meanwhile, over at the Obama national headquarters on Michigan Avenue, the push to convert undeclared superdelegates into the Obama corner was turned up a notch as a group of state party chairs were brought to the home office for presentations to get them off the fence.
When I last saw Plame in March, she was with her husband, former Ambassador Joe Wilson, at a press conference in Philadelphia with Clinton, where they touted her national security credentials. When I last did a column about Michelle Obama in a solo appearance, she was in Haverford, Pa., just before the April Pennsylvania primary trying to counter charges her husband was an elitist by talking about her hardscrabble youth and troubles paying off college loans.
But the partisanship was subdued at the fund-raiser for Schakowsky, a national co-chairwoman of Obama's campaign, who filled a giant ballroom at McCormick Place with about 1,800 backers, mostly women; this annual event is billed as a women's "Power Lunch."
Plame's identity was outed by Chicago Sun-Times columnist Robert Novak in 2003 following Wilson raising questions about whether the Bush White House bloated claims that helped clear the way for the U.S. to invade Iraq.
Plame told reporters that a reason she is with Clinton is "because in the darkest days of the story of the last five years it was Sen. Clinton who reached out to us on a personal basis and gave us her support. So we feel a deep sense of loyalty for that." Plame and Wilson are in a new ad Clinton is running in Oregon.
I'm used to seeing Michelle deliver stemwinders -- she can be fierce, persuasive, charming, mocking and sarcastic -- but on Friday she was businesslike and read from a text, sort of first lady like. It also made political sense since the crowd included Clinton backers.
The family campaigned together last weekend in Indiana and Obama recalled, "At one point someone asked Malia, our older daughter, what she enjoyed most about the weekend and she said, 'being with my dad,' and it nearly broke my heart."