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Michelle Obama preps for general election close-up

  • Story Highlights
  • Michelle Obama refining her speeches to emphasize family, upbringing
  • She has been criticized for coming across as angry, unpatriotic
  • She is co-hosting on "The View;" also on cover of Us Weekly
  • Her spokeswoman says this is not an "image makeover"
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(CNN) -- Michelle Obama, wife of Sen. Barack Obama, is honing her message for the fall, aides say.

Sen. Barack Obama and wife, Michelle, have been thrust into the public eye.

Sen. Barack Obama and wife, Michelle, have been thrust into the public eye.

"Michelle wrote her own stump (speech). And you know, she's refining it now I think as we're going into the general election," said senior Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett.

"We have an opportunity for her to kind of step back and think about the message she wants to deliver. So she's really working on it as we speak."

Her new speeches will include more details about her family and humble upbringing on Chicago's South Side, aides said.

Michelle Obama graduated from Harvard Law School, was a vice president at the University of Chicago and landed a job as a health care executive making $275,000 a year.

But along with her success has come criticism -- that's she's too angry, too negative and too sarcastic.

Now, the woman who would become the first black first lady is trying to connect with voters on a more personal level. Video Watch experts weigh in on how Michelle Obama is perceived »

On Wednesday, she made an appearance as a guest co-host on ABC's "The View," and later this week, she and her husband will grace the cover of Us Weekly.

The magazine is headlined "Michelle Obama: Why Barack Loves Her," and includes details about her love for Target, "Sex and the City" and her daughters' recitals.

Asked Wednesday while on "The View" if she's going through a makeover, she said she realizes "I wear my heart on my sleeve" and that "it's a risk you have to take." She said she thinks people will change their perception of her as they see her family more.

Michelle Obama's spokeswoman, Katie McCormick Lelyveld, said earlier there is no "image makeover" in the works. Video Watch what Michelle Obama would be like as first lady »

"She has staff engaged in simply part of the process of growing to a general election campaign and putting a strategy together to help people get to know her," Lelyveld said. "It's what you do as you move from primary voters to general election voters."

Carl Sferrazza Anthony, a first ladies historian, said it's important for Michelle Obama to define herself before others define her.

"One comment made off-hand ... might be easily misinterpreted by the opposition," he said.

Michelle Obama saw that in February when a Republican ad used a snippet from a campaign event in which, referring to record voter turnout in the Democratic primaries, she said, "for the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country."

Obama's campaign says she was just excited about the grassroots support, but her words still provided fodder for her husband's opponents.

The day after the comments, Cindy McCain, wife of presumptive Republican nominee John McCain, introduced her husband saying, "I don't know about you, if you heard those words earlier -- I am very proud of my country."

Michelle Obama has been a vocal advocate for her husband while on the campaign trail, delivering sometimes impassioned speeches on his behalf.

Robin Givhan, fashion editor with the Washington Post, said people see Michelle Obama in different ways.

"Some people will see confidence, and others might see cockiness. I think some people will see strength. Others might see arrogance," she said. "She comes across as someone who is extraordinarily independent and very much a force to be reckoned with."

Behind the scenes, she maintains that independence. According to the campaign, Michelle Obama picks out her own clothes. She received a lot of attention for the sleeveless purple dress and pearls she wore the night her husband became the presumptive Democratic nominee.

Beyond her style, though, a sense of dignity may be what most defines a first lady. It's a job that requires the ability to strike a balance between queen and commoner.


Exactly how Michelle Obama refines her approach on the stump remains to be seen, staffers said.

"We'll see," Jarrett said. "She's learned a lot of stories along the way from the American people, I think she may incorporate some more of the stories that she's heard that resonate with what she's seeing in terms of the direction that people want the country to take. But the rest is up to her. We'll see what she comes up with."

CNN's Randi Kaye contributed to this report.

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