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Michelle Obama paints a personal and political picture

With her husband and daughters watching from the White House, first lady Michelle Obama described President Barack Obama as sympathetic toward struggling Americans. She made her speech at Tuesday's Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.

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First Lady Michelle Obama addresses the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., on Tuesday. Polls show Mrs. Obama is the election's most popular figure.

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

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Michelle Obama's message: President Barack Obama is just like you.

"Barack knows the American Dream because he's lived it," the first lady told the Democratic National Convention on Tuesday in an address intended to reassure voters that her husband shares their values — hard work, perseverance and optimism — while also drawing a contrast between him and Mitt Romney.

Mrs. Obama never mentioned the president's Republican challenger, who grew up in a world of privilege and wealth.

But the point was clear as she wove a tapestry of their early years together, when money was tight and times were tough, when they were "so in love, and so in debt." She reminisced about the man who now occupies the Oval Office pulling his favorite coffee table out of the trash and wearing dress shoes that were a size too small. And she told stories about a president who still takes time to eat dinner with his daughters nearly every night, answering their questions about the news and strategizing about middle-school friendships.

With a mix of personal anecdotes and policy talk, Mrs. Obama's speech was her most political yet.

"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.

To that end, the first lady painted a portrait of a leader who knows first-hand the struggles of everyday Americans, who listens to them as president, and who pushes an agenda with their interests in mind.

"That's the man I see in those quiet moments late at night, hunched over his desk, poring over the letters people have sent him," she said. "I see the concern in his eyes ... and I hear the determination in his voice as he tells me, 'You won't believe what these folks are going through, Michelle. It's not right. We've got to keep working to fix this. We've got so much more to do."

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