First Lady Michelle Obama speaks to a crowd of supporters as she campaigns for the Democratic Party presidential nominee Hillary Clinton at the Convention Center, in Phoenix, Ariz., on Oct. 20, 2016.
Photo by Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty

Trump’s newest misstep: turning his attention to Michelle Obama

By most measures, President Obama is the second most popular political figure in the country. Who’s first? His wife, First Lady Michelle Obama.

For Democratic candidates, that’s good news. Not only is Michelle Obama an active campaigner as Election Day draws closer, she’s also demonstrated an ability to deliver some of the year’s most compelling and poignant addresses.

For some reason, this combination of factors gave Donald Trump a very bad idea, which he put into practice this afternoon.
Donald Trump took a rare swipe at First Lady Michelle Obama Friday, reminding voters of a snide comment she had made about Hillary Clinton eight years ago that he called “vicious.”

Mr. Trump, speaking at a rally in North Carolina, criticized Mrs. Obama’s frequent campaigning for the Democratic nominee, and quoted a crack she had made during the 2008 Democratic presidential primary contest between Mrs. Clinton and President Barack Obama.
“We have a president, all he wants to do is campaign. His wife, all she wants to do is campaign. And I see how much his wife likes Hillary,” Trump said. “But wasn’t she the one that originally started the statement, if you can’t take care of your home – right? – you can’t take care of the White House or the country.”

First, it’s largely true that the First Lady maintains an active campaign schedule, but that’s apparently because she really wants Hillary Clinton to win and Donald Trump to lose. Criticizing her for hitting the campaign trail because she feels passionate about the race hardly seems wise.

Second, Trump apparently wants voters to believe Michelle Obama doesn’t really like Clinton, and as proof, the Republican nominee is pointing to a quote from nine years ago: “[I]f you can’t run your own house, you certainly can’t run the White House.”

Did Michelle Obama actually say that? Sort of, but the context suggests Trump is trying to deceive.

What she actually said nine years ago is, “So our view was that, if you can’t run your own house, you certainly can’t run the White House. So, so we’ve adjusted our schedules to make sure that our girls are first, so while he’s traveling around, I do day trips.”

That’s not a swipe at Clinton; it didn’t have anything to do with Clinton.

But aside from the misleading rhetoric, Trump – or at least the aides who help tell Trump what to say – must realize how risky it is to take on the First Lady like this. She’s not only twice as popular as Trump, he’s also effectively inviting Michelle Obama to take on an even higher profile, defending Clinton (which hurts Trump) and criticizing him (which also hurts Trump).

Who’s the strategic genius on Team Trump who thought this was a good idea?