Michelle Obama, campaigning in the Des Moines area Monday on the heels of a new Iowa Poll showing her husband is ahead of Hillary Clinton, directed much of her effort toward female voters.
"What I've been trying to do on these first visits is to really serve as not just a surrogate messenger but as a surrogate ear," Obama told a crowd of about 60 people inside the Chit-n-Chat Coffee House in Waukee.
The wife of Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, one of the frontrunners for the Democratic presidential nomination, last month helped launched "Women for Obama." In its inaugural fundraising lunch in downtown Chicago, the group raised $750,000 for Obama's campaign.
Michelle Obama, 43, is a vice president at the University of Chicago. She emphasized in an interview Monday with The Des Moines Register that she has no political ambitions of her own.
"(Women for Obama) is a recognition that women are going to count for 60 percent of the vote this time around," she said.
She told the Waukee crowd: "I'm here because I'm a wife, I'm a mother, I'm a professional, and like so many of you, I am desperate, so desperate, for a change. I feel fundamentally that we cannot keep moving in this direction as a country."
The Register's new Iowa Poll shows Barack Obama placing second in Iowa among the Democrats vying for president in 2008. He was behind John Edwards, a former U.S. senator from North Carolina, but he edged out U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York, the former first lady. Edwards had support of 29 percent of Iowa Democrats likely to take part in the 2008 precinct caucuses; Obama had the support of 23 percent; and Clinton had 21 percent.
The poll, taken May 12-16, has a margin of error of 4.9 percentage points.
Nancy Bobo, a Des Moines Human Rights Commission member, attended the Waukee event. She said Barack Obama has her caucus vote.
"I don't think there's any other candidate that on Inauguration Day can get up and speak to the world and immediately the world knows it's a new day in America," Bobo said. "We're electing a president, not just for Americans, but for the world. ... We need someone that will really bring people together."
Michelle Obama also met with officials from the House of Mercy, 1409 Clark St., Monday afternoon. The nonprofit provides health and human services to women and children.
Obama, in her professional career, has worked to improve care and reduce health expenses for low-income families. Her questions to House of Mercy staff included how preventive measures are used as tools to reduce emergency room visits.
She read the children's book "Arthur Meets the President," by Marc Brown, to a group of about 30 children in Mercy's child care center before she left.