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Commentary: Michelle Obama finds tabloid love

  • Story Highlights
  • Michelle Obama, featured in this week's Us Weekly, co-hosted ABC's "The View"
  • Wearing pearls, Jackie O-inspired getups help neutralize her polarizing persona
  • Ogunnaike: She appears to be far more Clair Huxtable than Angela Davis
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By Lola Ogunnaike
CNN American Morning Correspondent
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NEW YORK (CNN) -- Politicians. They're just like us, or at least, that's what they're desperate to have us believe, particularly during a campaign season in which the word "elitist" has been lobbed about like a pinless hand grenade.

How else do you explain all the booze drinking, hip shaking and (bad) joke telling that has occurred?

Hillary Clinton may love her starched pantsuits, but she's not too stiff to have a stiff drink, right? John McCain can't be all that crotchety if he's cool enough to joke about his days as a POW. Barack Obama can't be all that uppity if he's busting a move with Ellen DeGeneres.

This week comes a six-page cover story in, of all places, Us Weekly magazine about Barack Obama and his wife. The headline reads, "Michelle Obama: Why Barack Loves Her" and teases, "She shops at Target, loved 'Sex and the City' and never misses the girls' recitals. It's the untold romance between a down-to-earth mom and the man who calls her 'my rock.' "

Diet secrets, busted marriages, rehab stints and budding romance -- those are the standard dishes served on the Us Weekly menu. On the covers, you usually find skinny blonde starlets, not smiling, middle-aged black couples. But as the nation has been riveted by the historic race to the White House, tabloid television shows and magazines have discovered that politics is sexy and that readers want juicy morsels about the Obamas as well as Brad and Angelina.

What's in it for the politicians? More eyeballs, new eyeballs, young eyeballs.

Last month, McCain sat down with the leading black women's magazine, Essence, which reaches nearly 2 million readers. Us Weekly reaches more than 11 million readers per week, according to the magazine.

"You can do all the 'News Hour with Jim Lehrer' you want, but if Michelle Obama wants to immediately reach a mass audience, you come here," Us Weekly Editor Janice Min said.

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These appearances in unlikely publications also help personalize these public figures -- bring 'em down a notch, make them accessible and ultimately, easily digestible to the female, 18-54 demographic that these magazines own.

"People want to know can you drink a beer with this person or, in the case of our reader, drink a cosmo with them," Min said. Do you vote for first lady?

The Us Weekly cover could not have come at a better time for Michelle Obama, who has proved to be as polarizing as her husband is electrifying.

Some Republicans have been all too eager to paint her as an angry, fist-bumping radical, a scary "baby mama" and an unpatriotic flag-pin hater.

Michelle's jawbreaker-sized pearls and Jackie O-inspired getups have helped neutralize some of the disses (militants don't typically wear matching twin sets), but it's going to take more than a sleeveless purple shift to convince some that she's fit to be first lady.

So here she is, a Princeton graduate and an accomplished executive, talking about trips to Target, Sudoku, bad hair days and dance recitals. Subtext: I'm just another bargain-hunting soccer mom, who just happens to be married to the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee.

The magazine profile, which is as fluffy as a down comforter, comes complete with several adorable family photos. And she appears to be far more Clair Huxtable than Angela Davis.

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In February, Barack Obama sat down for a chat with the magazine and answered his share of softball questions about favorite foods (chili) and preferred reading material (Harry Potter). He refused to share whether he was partial to boxers or briefs (that's so '90s) but did offer that his two daughters think Britney and Paris are "yuck."

That same month, Clinton, who has been a fashion don't for years, skewered several of her yuckiest ensembles in US. "It's not my fault; it was the '60s," she said of one particularly horrid creation.

Michelle Obama continued her charm offensive Wednesday morning, when she co-hosted on ABC's "The View" (her husband has appeared twice on the show). In a chic black and white dress, she spoke about the controversy surrounding her and made it clear that she's proud to be an American.

"In no other place could my story be possible," Michelle Obama said.

She didn't get into a catfight with Elisabeth Hasselbeck. She even reached out to hold the staunch Republican's hand at one point. All in all, it was a pretty safe and boring performance. Nothing was said that could be used against her in the court of public opinion. At least nothing that would cause women to believe she isn't anything like them.

All About Michelle ObamaBarack ObamaU.S. Presidential Election

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