Michelle Obama's star power could help Biden unite Democrats

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FILE - In this Dec. 9, 2019, file photo, former first lady Michelle Obama listens to female students at the Can Giuoc high school in Long An province, Vietnam. Seeking to unite Democrats, Joe Biden has raced to line up supporters ranging from progressive icon Bernie Sanders to former President Barack Obama, whose administration sometimes irked liberals. But the person with the most influence may be Michelle Obama. (AP Photo/Hau Dinh, File)

WASHINGTON – Seeking to unite Democrats, Joe Biden has raced to line up supporters ranging from progressive icon Bernie Sanders to former President Barack Obama, whose administration sometimes irked liberals. But the person with the most influence may be Michelle Obama.

The former first lady is a unique figure in a deeply polarizing political environment, exceedingly popular with the party faithful while also having some appeal with Republicans and independents.

She left the White House with a 68% approval rating, according to Gallup polling. She also was named “the most admired woman” in the world for the second year in a row in a Gallup poll from December.

And her memoir, “Becoming,” has sold more than 11 million copies worldwide since its November 2018 release, making it one of the bestselling political memoirs in history. Her book tour filled arenas with thousands of cheering fans.

That type of energy could be critical for Biden, who is trying to build momentum for his campaign at a time when the coronavirus is dominating headlines. Michelle Obama could help Biden present a clear contrast with President Donald Trump and rebuild the multiracial, multigenerational coalition that twice put Barack Obama in the White House.

“She brings to the table not just her own experience of being an active and well-respected first lady but, at a time when the country is looking for leadership and looking for role models, she fills so many gaps,” said Democratic strategist Donna Brazile. “I can only imagine what her endorsement would mean to the former vice president.”

Like most Americans, Michelle Obama is staying at home, along with her husband and daughters Malia and Sasha, who are back from college. She has not yet weighed in on the 2020 campaign, though a person close to her said there's little doubt she supports Biden. The person spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss Michelle Obama's thinking.

An endorsement does not appear imminent. Biden campaign aides who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss possible scenarios said they want to ensure that any announcement lands with the biggest impact possible.