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First ladies with the campaign touch: Michelle Obama is just one

Michelle Obama is a Democratic asset on the campaign trail. Which other first ladies have had sharp campaign instincts?

By Staff writer / October 19, 2010

First Lady Michelle Obama speaks at a Democratic National Committee fundraiser on Oct. 18, in New York.

Stephen Chernin/AP

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Washington

Michelle Obama has hit the campaign trail. She’s already made stops to rally the Democratic faithful in the Midwest (Wisconsin, Illinois), the West (Colorado, Washington, California), and a state that likes to think it is part of New England (Connecticut).

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Her swing makes sense for the party. They’ve sent her to states that aren’t deep red. Plus, she’s popular: Her favorability ratings are 20 points higher than her husband’s.

That got us thinking: Which other first ladies have been good political spokeswomen?

IN PICTURES: Michelle Obama's Fashion

Yes, please hold your e-mails, we know all about Eleanor Roosevelt. We’re looking into less obvious examples, such as:

Florence Harding. Warren Harding was a newspaper publisher in Ohio before he was president, and his wife, Florence, was the circulation manager. By all accounts, the force of her personality is what kept the presses running on time. When he ran for president, she stage-managed many of his appearances. She was famous for serving homemade waffles to reporters.

On Nov. 2, 1920, she became the first woman to vote for her husband as president. Women had won the right to vote just a few months earlier, with ratification of the 19th Amendment.

Lady Bird Johnson. In Washington, Lady Bird may be best remembered for beautifying the city’s federal areas with flower beds. Fewer residents recall her role campaigning in the South in the 1964 election, after LBJ had signed the Civil Rights Act.

In October 1964, she rode a 19-car train dubbed the Lady Bird Special some 1,600 miles from D.C. to New Orleans. An extra locomotive preceded her train, due to bomb threats. Lady Bird gave numerous whistle-stop speeches, asking for votes for her husband. Among the souvenirs passed to the crowd were copies of her recipe for pecan pie.

Jackie Kennedy. Jackie Kennedy made few personal appearances during the 1960 campaign. But she did pioneer a type of political outreach – one that made use of her talent for languages. Jackie, famous for her love of French culture, recorded a campaign ad in Spanish. It was one of the first examples of outreach to Latinos by a US presidential campaign.

IN PICTURES: Michelle Obama's Fashion

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