09/07/2012 12:36 pm ET

Why Are Presidential Candidates' Wives All the Same?

When Michelle Obama took the stage at the Democratic convention earlier this week to play the role of Barack’s wife, her carefully crafted public persona came with her. It’s not just that Obama’s digs at Mitt Romney were subtle and functioned simultaneously as praise of her husband, allowing her to avoid being labeled Mrs. Grievance as she was in 2008. It’s also that, like virtually every successful first lady or wannabe first lady in recent decades, she has now perfected the narrative of a candidate’s wife who is reluctant, self-sacrificing, and humbled by her political experience.

Did she want to run back in 2008? She did not. (“I loved the life we had built for our girls,” Michelle told the crowd.) Did she go along out of loyalty, but was filled with misgivings? She did and she was. And does she now see why it was precisely the right call—not just for their daughters, but for the country—why “my husband, our president” is the only man for the job? You bet.

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