Wanted: Woman seeking man: tall, handsome, bright, family-oriented leader of the free world.

Sure, only one gentleman fills that bill at the moment, and a Chicago lawyer named Michelle snatched up that skinny Harvard grad years ago.

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But across the country, many women dare to harbor the audacious hope of finding "their own Barack" - a man with integrity, character and spirituality, one who loves and values his wife and makes his family a priority no matter how busy his schedule is.

In other words, the kind of man that many women had lost hope of finding, especially in this age of grim marital statistics. In 2006, for instance, 45 percent of African American women had never married, according to a U.S. Census Bureau survey.

"He absolutely makes me think it's attainable," said Monica Weeks, a divorced mother in Somerset, N.J. "For women who are older and seeking a man, I think we can look at him and say, 'All is not lost.' ''

With the Oval Office template laid before them, women are aspiring to the Obama ideal - or at least hoping for someone in the ballpark.

"He raised the stakes," said Linda Tolbert, 26, of East Falls. "If you're working the 9-to-5 and you can't set aside an hour or two, what is that relationship worth to you?"

Some men chafe at the idea that their entire gender is being held to the presidential standard. Daily Show host Jon Stewart implored Obama to "take it down a notch, dude," as the comedian rolled footage of the first couple's Manhattan rendezvous, dinner and a show, in May.

To be sure, it's not just the power of his office that has women putting the president on a pedestal. Jasmine Austin, 21, of Sicklerville, says that "your Barack can be the plumber or electrician," as long as he embodies some of the commander-in-chief's admirable qualities.

Obama's sex appeal hasn't hurt. But he has touched a nerve among black women in particular, who consider him an IBM (Ideal Black Man).

For years, single black women have been commiserating about the perceived shortage of eligible black men. It's laughed about in movies (Waiting to Exhale) and backed up with statistics: The May unemployment rate for black men was 16.8 percent for those ages 20 and older, compared with a national rate of 9.8 percent for all adult men. Black women outnumber black men almost 2-to-1 on college campuses. Most black babies are born to unwed mothers.

"There are a large number of African American women who have largely given up on finding a mate," said Sheri Parks, associate professor of American studies at the University of Maryland. "Their men are not there."

For black women, it's significant that Obama has a black wife and values her education and professional aspirations. Black men are more likely to marry outside of their race than black women, according to the U.S. Census.

Experts caution against over-romanticizing the Obama marriage. If women of any race are expecting to find a Barack, they're bound to be disappointed, said Audrey B. Chapman, a black marriage therapist in Washington. She thinks many black women are too picky.

But observing the Obamas' marital paradigm from a distance has taught Anjail Robinson, 29, of West Philadelphia, to expect more from the men in her life.

"He's showing a lot of men how they should be," she said. "I should have my expectations a lot higher."

Derek Martin, 40, of Logan, says women may be asking too much of would-be suitors.

"They ain't going to find [Obama] everywhere," said Martin, who has been married for five years. "They should be happy if a dude's working."

At the same time, some single men are eyeing a White House-worthy catch of their own.

"I'm keeping it real - I'm looking for a Michelle," said Ray Walker, 52, of Philadelphia. "She's a woman who believes in herself, believes in family values."

Temple Law student Carolyn Kumah, 30, who is from New York City, says the lesson of the fairy-tale marriage has little to do with holding companions to heightened standards. Rather, the significance lies in personal improvement and, in the Obama tradition, hope.

"As an African American woman, I have a renewed sense of possibility that I can have someone that can anchor me like they anchor each other," she said. "I want to be Michelle. . . . You can't expect to be an undeveloped person and attract someone of Barack Obama's caliber."

Of course, for those who have already found their Baracks and Michelles, the high-profile romance radiates familiarity.

"We were doing that before he got in," griped Philadelphia native Rob Evans, 36, who theorized that the president had borrowed some of Evans' ideas for fancy dinners and intimate evenings. "Big Brother's always watching."

Contact staff writer Matt Flegenheimer at 215-854-4193 or mflegenheimer@phillynews.com.
This article contains information from the Associated Press.