(Photo: REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi)
First Lady Michelle Obama's speech on the first night of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., was more political than usual for a first lady. While never mentioning Mitt Romney by name, she contrasted President Barack Obama's life with that of Romney's while echoing many Obama campaign themes.
Two themes from the speech came directly from the campaign's talking points that have been used since Romney became the Republican nominee. The first is that Romney, as a man of wealth and privilege, does not understand the concerns of middle-class voters.
The speech highlighted Barack Obama's middle-class upbringing to contrast with Romney, who grew up the son of an auto company executive and Michigan governor.
Michelle Obama talked about Barack Obama picking her up in a rusted out car when they first dated. His "proudest possession was a coffee table he'd found in a dumpster" and his "only pair of decent shoes was a half size too small."
"Barack and I were both raised by families who didn't have much in the way of money or material possessions," she said.
The second campaign talking point reflected in the speech is that Romney would, as president, further "rig the system" in favor of the wealthy.
"We learned about honesty and integrity -- that the truth matters, that you don't take shortcuts or play by your own set of rules, and success doesn't count unless you earn it fair and square," Michelle Obama said.
She added, "Barack knows the American Dream because he's lived it, and he wants everyone in this country to have that same opportunity, no matter who we are, or where we're from, or what we look like, or who we love. He believes that when you've worked hard, and done well, and walked through that doorway of opportunity, you do not slam it shut behind you. You reach back, and you give other folks the same chances that helped you succeed."
The Obama campaign and super PAC have also accused Romney of harming the lives of workers at a steel plant owned by Bain Capital that closed after he left as head of Bain Capital, accusing him of being more concerned about making money than the lives of people.
Barack Obama is "the same man who started his career by turning down high paying jobs and instead working in struggling neighborhoods where a steel plant had shut down, fighting to rebuild those communities and get folks back to work, because for Barack, success isn't about how much money you make, it's about the difference you make in people's lives," Michelle Obama said.
The first lady also made some public policy arguments when she mentioned the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, student loans, and health care reform. She also likened gay marriage to women's suffrage and the civil rights movement.
"If women could be dragged to jail for seeking the vote, if a generation could defeat a depression and define greatness for all time, if a young preacher could lift us to the mountaintop with his righteous dream, and if proud Americans can be who they are and boldly stand at the altar with who they love then surely, surely we can give everyone in this country a fair chance at that great American Dream," she said.
One of the biggest applause lines of the night came when Michelle Obama spoke about the difficulties of being president.
"Well, today, after so many struggles and triumphs and moments that have tested my husband in ways I never could have imagined, I have seen firsthand that being president doesn't change who you are -- it reveals who you are," she said.
Beyond politics, the first lady talked about her two young daughters. During the 2008 convention, Michelle Obama had said she "was worried about what it would mean for our girls if he got that chance" to be president.
But toward the end of her 2012 speech, after relaying stories about her and Barack's lives and his accomplishments as president, she said, "I say all of this tonight not just as first lady, and not just as a wife. You see, at the end of the day, my most important title is still 'mom-in-chief.' My daughters are still the heart of my heart and the center of my world. But today, I have none of those worries from four years ago about whether Barack and I were doing what's best for our girls."