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Opinion: Michelle Obama -- lightning rod for the right

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Our colleague Robin Abcarian has a good piece over on The Times’ Campaign ’08 page and, being the great writer that she is, she sums it up best herself with her lede: ‘They loved to hate Hillary Rodham Clinton. They loved to hate Teresa Heinz Kerry. And now, it appears, conservative voices are energetically taking on Michelle Obama.’

Abcarian delves into the Tennessee Republican Party’s Web video mocking Obama’s ‘For the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country’ comment and how it will echo through the fall election. More significantly, the piece raises the question of whether a candidate’s spouse is fair game. There are several ways to slice that up, but you have to figure that if a spouse is out there on the campaign trail, the spouse -- be it Obama, Bill Clinton or Cindy McCain -- is fair game, for fair criticism.

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What’s curious is that the most vocal critics, as Abcarian writes, tend to be conservatives sniping at Democrats. (But then, Republican candidate spouses haven’t made as much news as the Democratic spouses). And fairness tends to be in the eye of the beholder (Evidence: the comment sections on this and other blogs).

But for the candidates, the prime issue is to make sure the spouse isn’t stumbling around off message, and saying things that anger the very people you’re trying to appeal to and give ammunition to those who oppose you.

-- Scott Martelle


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