In her first day of Pennsylvania primary campaigning, Michelle Obama brought her husband's "politics of hope" refrain to Philadelphia's suburbs yesterday, hitting many of the notes that have resonated with voters elsewhere in the nation.
To high school students in Abington, she was the academic overachiever who dared them to dream big and to share what they reap.
To young, professional mothers in Haverford, she played sister in arms, swapping stories of struggling to juggle the demands of marriage, kids and career against a backdrop of thinning wages and evaporating benefits.
And to the toddler children of those working women, she was just the nice lady who came to their day care and read them a Dr. Seuss book.
It was a full day in the quest to snare a win in Pennsylvania, the elusive big-state quarry that could seal the Democratic nomination for Sen. Barack Obama - or add enough oomph to the resurgent Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton to forever inscribe the term superdelegate in the national lexicon.
Either way, voters are energized and engaged, she said.
"People are sitting around the kitchen table talking about pledged delegates," she told a crowd of more than 1,000 filling the auditorium at Abington High School in Montgomery County. The rally was open to the public.
"When was the last time anyone talked about pledged delegates? People in this country are awake in a way they haven't been for a long time, and that's a good thing."
Her appearances began with a playful reading of The Cat in the Hat Comes Back - it was Dr. Seuss' birthday - to a dozen or so 4- and 5-year-olds at the Children's Ark at St. George's day-care center in Ardmore.
She then engaged five of their mothers in a low-key roundtable chat in the Episcopal church that houses the daycare.
By late afternoon, she had delivered a rousing oration at Abington, where students and adults stood to cheer and shout the Obama campaign mantra:
"Yes, we can!"
Obama then moved on to what was expected to be a larger evening rally on the campus of Villanova University.
She took no opening-day questions from reporters but received laurels from those who heard her.
"It was very inspiring," said Allen Woolf, 52, of Glenside, who attended the Abington event. "I've been active in politics for a long time, but now it is particularly important. Our country is in trouble."
With a forceful eloquence honed by her training as a lawyer and her months on the political stump, Obama, 44, made oft-delivered lines sound fresh to those hearing them for the first time.
She spoke of her blue-collar roots on Chicago's South Side, of how her father dragged himself to a joyless municipal job while struggling with multiple sclerosis.
She told of how his labors supported a family of four, put both of his children through Princeton, and afforded his widow a comfortable retirement.
And of how today, one paycheck - let alone a municipal worker's wage - would no longer be enough for any of that.
"Truth be told, no matter how many Newsweek covers I'm on, I'm still regular folks," Obama said.
Obama challenged the students to emulate her husband by not cashing in on their skills, but to use them to help others who struggle. She drew loud applause when she told them not to cave in to political leadership that plays on people's fears.
"We're not suffering from a deficit of resources," she said. "We are suffering from a deficit of empathy."
Above all, she appealed for their help.
"Here we are now in Pennsylvania," she said. "We're going to need you working hard."
For more photos of Michelle Obama's campaign visit, go to http://go.philly.com/michelle EndText