She is more popular than her husband, but First Lady Michelle Obama's election scorecard proved no better than his, particularly in her home state. Seven of her candidates lost — and only six won.
But the very first Democrat she appeared with on the trail, Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, was one of two Senate incumbents to stumble. The same day, she traveled to her native Chicago for events with Senate nominee Alexi Giannoulias and Democratic House candidates Dan Seals, Debbie Halvorson and Bill Foster. All four sank in the Republican wave.
Anita McBride, who was chief of staff to former First Lady Laura Bush and is executive in residence at American University's Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies, said Obama's itinerary was devised to help Democrats preserve their majority in the Senate. And on that score, she was successful.
Democratic incumbents Michael Bennet of Colorado, Barbara Boxer of California and Patty Murray of Washington held their seats. In Connecticut, the first lady's fundraising visit helped Richard Blumenthal defeat a heavy-spending Republican, Linda McMahon.
And an election-eve visit on behalf of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid preceded his five-point victory in a race that many expected him to lose. Democrats will hold 53 seats in the Senate next year. Obama also supported Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, who as lieutenant governor succeeded indicted former Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich and narrowly won a full term Tuesday.
Obama delivered largely the same message at all stops, avoiding sharp political jabs like those her husband delivered in favor of a softer address in which she spoke as "mom in chief."
McBride said analyzing the results isn't the same as assessing a pro football team's end-of-season record. "Given the current environment and given the sweeping changes that took place in this election, the fact that six of the 13 candidates she helped and campaigned for won their seats is a good number," she said.
Though she appears a natural on the stump, it's not necessarily Obama's favorite venue, McBride observed.
"She got accustomed to being in this political world, which is not one she chose lightly or willingly," McBride said. "But in less than two years, she'll be out there doing this for her husband, and her ability to campaign as effectively and doggedly as she did in this very critical election indicated to me that her role as a political partner to her husband is one that she has to embrace."