First lady Michelle Obama has figuratively evicted her 74-year-old mother from the White House in an apparent effort to boost her appeal to middle-class voters.
The eviction notice came April 30 when the first lady told fellow Democrats at a fundraiser that she shared their values. “My family, we lived in a little bitty apartment on the South Side of Chicago over my aunt’s house [and] my mom still lives in that house to this day.”
However, the first lady’s mother, Marian Robinson, has lived in the White House since March 2009, when Essence Magazine announced her move from Chicago to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
“She will stay as long as her son-in-law and daughter want her to stay there,” Angela Burt-Murray, the editor of Essence Magazine, said in an April 2009 “Today” show interview.
White House officials have largely kept Robinson out of sight, and she makes relatively few public appearances. One recent exception came on April 9, when she publicly read “The Rainbow Fish” at the 2012 White House Easter Egg Roll.
The first lady’s effort to distance herself from her mother’s White House stay comes as both she and President Barack Obama try to stress their middle-class roots, amid a stalled economy and high unemployment.
The cost of visible first family trips — to Spain, Hawaii, Martha’s Vineyard and other locations — has spurred some level of resentment among Americans, whose income has stalled since 2008, even as their costs for gasoline, health care and education have risen.
The first lady’s 2010 trip to Spain cost taxpayers $487,000, partly because her large group increased security costs. In 2011, the first lady’s trip to southern Africa cost another $424,142. The cost estimates were uncovered by Judicial Watch, a D.C.-based watchdog group.
The voters “view everything through their own personal situation and if they can’t afford to do it, they can’t enjoy it, they don’t like Obama using their tax dollars to benefit himself,” according to John McLaughlin, a pollster for Resurgent Republican, a GOP-aligned research group. “In this case, they see him as out of touch… he’s basically doing what they can’t do on their tax dollars,” added the GOP pollster, who talked with swing-voters in Pittsburgh and Cleveland in April and March.
One of those voters, he said, complained that “Michelle Obama spends $1 million to take the kids to Hawaii,” while another complained that “President Obama was the only president to take so many trips.”
However, both Obama and the first lady have tried to portray themselves as solidly middle-class, despite their Ivy League degrees.