Michelle Obama on 'Letterman' tonight. Can she get Dave to work out? (+video)

In recent TV appearances, first lady Michelle Obama competed with Ellen DeGeneres in a push-up contest, and she tried to get Jay Leno to eat something healthy. On Monday's 'Letterman,' maybe she can get her host to take part in a sack race. 

By , Staff writer

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    First lady Michelle Obama is greeted by Minnesota military and family members as she arrives at the Minnesota Air National Guard base, home of the 133rd Airlift Wing, Friday, in St. Paul, Minnesota. On Monday, Michelle Obama is scheduled to appear on CBS's 'Late Night with David Letterman.'
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Michelle Obama is scheduled to appear on CBS’s "Late Night with David Letterman" on Monday. Will the first lady challenge the veteran funnyman to a push-up contest?

We ask because in February Mrs. Obama appeared on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" and got involved in some friendly exercise one-upmanship. Ms. DeGeneres goaded her into a push-up contest, and the pair went at it right on the set, side by side. DeGeneres collapsed at about 20, while the famously fit first lady went right on up to 25.

“I just stopped,” said Obama.

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DeGeneres graciously refrained from pointing out that her guest had been dropping only about halfway toward the floor on each push-up.

“I thought it wouldn’t be good to show up the first lady so I stopped. I thought it would look bad if I beat her,” said DeGeneres.

Or, if there aren’t push-ups, perhaps there will be a sack race. A few days after her Ellen appearance, Mrs. Obama went mano-a-mano with talk-show host Jimmy Fallon in a whole host of pretend-contests at the White House. They had a tug-of-war, sack raced, and so forth. Yes, the first lady emerged triumphant.

Well, it’s possible that Michelle Obama will get Dave Letterman out from behind his desk and into a pickup basketball game, or a jumping jacks contest, or perhaps some friendly fencing. But it’s more likely that she’ll just try to get him to eat something healthy. That’s what she did in January on Jay Leno’s "The Tonight Show." Let’s face it, neither Letterman nor Leno looks as if he's in great shape.

Plus, it’s almost the first anniversary of Michelle Obama’s Joining Forces initiative to help out hard-pressed military families. We’re pretty sure Letterman will give her a forum to at least mention that.

That’s why politicians (yes, a first lady is a political representative in her own right) flock to talk shows and other nontraditional broadcast venues now, after all. It’s a way to get their message out to a mass audience without that pesky insistent questioning that Washington reporters always feel they have to engage in.

Then-White House spokesman Robert Gibbs had an interesting colloquy about this at a White House briefing in October 2010. President Obama had just appeared on "The Daily Show," where host Jon Stewart called him “dude,” and some reporters wondered if the nation’s chief executive might be smarting due to this less-than-reverential reference.

“Let me say, if the president took offense at somebody calling him ‘dude,' given the names that are hurled around this town, I hazard to guess he’d rarely leave the top floor of the residence,” said Mr. Gibbs, to press room laughter.

Gibbs went on to explain that the White House was looking for ways to get its message out in nontraditional ways, to audiences who might not get their news from traditional sources.

Putting Mr. Obama on Jay Leno’s show in 2010, for instance, was “one of the easiest decisions we ever made,” said Gibbs. The program has an audience of about 9 million, many of whom probably don’t scour the Web hourly for political news and gossip.

“I think it’s an interesting and an important place to reach people and to talk to them about what’s going on in this country,” said Gibbs, in words that would probably be seconded today by his successor, Jay Carney, and indeed, by the press secretaries of most all the GOP presidential contenders.

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