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It's all about priorities for Michelle Obama

August 22, 2007|Maria L. La Ganga | Times Staff Writer

One question is just how much time Michelle Obama will spend on the campaign trail in the months ahead. Her public appearances to date have depended on her children's whereabouts -- school, camp or home.

At this point, she limits political travel to two days a week and doesn't stay overnight unless the girls come along. She tries to return home in time to kiss them good night, but it's a struggle.

And the meticulous planner may have met her match in the bustle of a presidential campaign. "It's not proving as structured as she originally wanted," says longtime friend and mentor Valerie Jarrett.

Nor has it been entirely smooth. She has been criticized for serving on the corporate board of TreeHouse Foods Inc., a condiment maker that closed a Colorado plant during her tenure and supplies Wal-Mart.

Obama has since resigned from the board, citing time constraints. The Barack Obama campaign declined to comment.

And Obama received mixed reviews early on, when she brought her famous husband down to earth in public. "He's a wonderful man, he's a gifted man," she said at an April event, "but in the end, he's just a man." Lately, however, she sounds much more reverent. He is, she said at a Harlem event, "the answer" for America.

In the Austin area last month, one supporter asked what she would do as first lady. Her response: "Take care of my daughters, to make sure they're OK being in the White House."

And if she doesn't end up moving east next January?

"My job is waiting for me," she said in an interview. "And if it's not, I'll find something else to do. . . . I don't worry about a career. That will always be there. What I am worried about are my girls."

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maria.laganga@latimes.com

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Begin test of infobox

At a glance:

Michelle Obama

Birth: Jan. 17, 1964, Chicago.

Education: 1985, Princeton University, BA in sociology, minor in African American studies; 1988, JD, Harvard Law School.

Current job: University of Chicago Medical Center, vice president of community and external affairs.

Family: Husband, Sen. Barack Obama; daughters Malia, 9, Sasha, 6.

On meeting husband: "Who names somebody Barack Obama?"

Church: Trinity United Church of Christ.

Political quid pro quo: Husband quits smoking or he can't run for president.

Children's quid pro quo: Win or lose, a dog.

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Source: L.A. Times staff writer Maria L. La Ganga, www.barackobama.com

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