The woman who is introducing Michelle Obama is so excited and nervous she can barely get through the first few sentences. Star power it seems is something Michelle Obama enjoys in her own right.
The gathering was supposed to be an intimate affair - 50 or 60 people, mostly women, gathered in the club house of a condominium complex to celebrate Michelle Obama's 44th birthday yesterday. There was a cake baked in the shape of a map of Nevada and small cupcakes dotted with candy confetti. Annie Moore, a campaign volunteer, who shares a birthday with Obama, was given the honour of introducing her.
But that was as cosy and soft focus as it got. Within minutes, Obama was making as compelling a case for her husband's campaign as any he has delivered. Dream, she urged. Banish fear and cynicism. Barack Obama can win, she said. He can change the way America does politics.
"If there is one lesson that we can gain from this race, don't let anyone tell you what you can't," she said. "Our future is in our own hands."
The audience was hers. Tall - she stands a touch under 6ft - slim and naturally elegant, and a gifted speaker, Michelle Obama has been a commanding presence on the campaign trail.
She has been a crucial element in her husband's campaign to win over women voters, dotting her speeches with references to her two young daughters and her struggles as a working woman. And she is a powerful weapon in the battle for the votes of black women, many of whom are torn between voting along gender lines and race lines.
Her campaign activity will step up a gear this week as the Democratic race for the White House moves to South Carolina, the first state on the primary calendar with a significant African-American population. From there, it's onwards to Super Tuesday on February 5, when four more southern states with significant black populations will hold their primaries - Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia and Tennessee.
For an older generation of voters, who are familiar and comfortable with the Clintons and doubtful - fearful even - about the prospects of sending a black man to the White House, Michelle Obama will be there with a ready answer: It's the right time. Do not give in to your fears.
Political spouses are prescribed various roles on the campaign trail. They function as enforcers - launching attacks that would be seen as too mean-spirited coming from a candidate. They offer character references - living proof that the candidate is of upright and moral character and they can be powerful advocates of their partner's agenda.
Michelle Obama does all that. Like Bill Clinton, who has been burning up the campaign trail, dismissing Obama's version of his stand against the Iraq war as a "fairy tale", she is not afraid of going on the offensive - and she can be a formidable combatant in her own right.
In Las Vegas, Michelle Obama went straight for Hillary Clinton's claims that her experience equipped her to be president - without deigning to use her name. "We have got two choices in this race. We have the same old thing over and over again that hasn't worked for regular folks in my lifetime. And then we have Barack Obama."
Moments later, it was the turn of John Edwards - though once again Michelle Obama did not refer to him directly. She dismissed his claim to be dedicated to the common man, noting to his career as a trial lawyer before he entered politics. "I am a lawyer," she said. "There are a lot of lawyers in this race and most of them made their millions before they decided to work for the people."
But while she is a strong defender, Michelle Obama's greatest value to the campaign may lie in her ability to speak out directly on issues of race and her husband's electability in white middle America.
At an awards dinner in Atlanta earlier this week, she made a point of holding up her husband's victory in the Iowa caucuses as proof of his ability to appeal to voters across political and colour lines. "Ain't no black people in Iowa," she said. "Something big, something new is happening. Let's build the future we all know is possible. Let's show our kids that America is ready for Barack Obama right now."
Michelle Obama's ease at discussing race has as much to do with her own credentials as her husband's claims to be able to transcend race. Unlike her husband, the son of a Kenyan father whom he never really knew and a white mother from Kansas, Michelle Obama is rooted in family and the African-American experience.
She is the daughter of a working class family, raised in a tiny one-bedroom apartment on the south side of Chicago. She is close to the family of the reverend Jesse Jackson.
As she is fond of reminding voters on the campaign trail, her trajectory from her humble beginnings in Chicago through Princeton and Harvard and the world of corporate law is, in its own way, as improbable as her husband's. "I am not supposed to be here, she told the small crowd in Vegas. "According to every statistic."
But this daughter of a fire pump operator for the City of Chicago was an over-achiever even as a four-year-old, the age at which she learned to read. She later won admission to one of the city's first "magnet schools" for academically gifted children.
Michelle followed her older brother, Craig, to Princeton and then on to Harvard law school, where her professors ranked her among the best students they had ever seen. She met the man who was to be her future husband 20 years ago at her first job at a corporate law firm in Chicago.
He was immediately smitten; it took a month before she was persuaded to go out with him. But within a few months, Obama had persuaded her to leave corporate America for public service and a job in the office of Chicago's mayor.
The couple, who married in 1992, have two daughters, Sasha and Malia, now nine and six. When Barack Obama was elected to the Senate, Michelle and the children stayed behind in Chicago. She said she wanted her girls to have a normal life - but she was also earning twice as much as her husband's $162,500 salary as an executive at the University of Chicago hospitals and on corporate boards.
She gave up the job last May, to help her husband's campaign. She seemed a reluctant political wife at first, speaking openly about her resentment the campaign might take on her family life and the toll on their two younger daughters. At her first big solo outing, in New Hampshire last June, she told the crowd she often felt overwhelmed by the competing demands of work, motherhood and now politics.
"Sometimes I wonder, what is the cost of having it all? Sometimes we, as women, we've convinced ourselves that doing it all is somehow a badge of honour," she says.
Michelle Obama's candour about the campaign trail - and about her husband's minor domestic failings - brought her trouble those first months on the campaign trail. The New York Times columnist, Maureen Dowd, accused Obama of emasculating her husband in public because she joked about him forgetting to put the butter away.
But after those first few mis-steps, Obama found her stride and now on the campaign trail she is nearly as great a draw on the campaign trail as her husband. At the Las Vegas birthday celebration, Moore's excitement was undiminished. "That was awesome. It was all I thought it would be," she said.