First Lady Takes Center Stage

First lady Laura Bush, a featured player in her husband's bid for reelection, is giving a primetime speech Tuesday night at the convention.

Tuesday morning, while still out on the campaign trail in Detroit, Mich., she told The Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith she is proud of how women entrepreneurs have contributed to the economy.

"I've had a really great time talking about women entrepreneurs and meeting women around the country who started businesses," she said. "We know that the small business sector of the United States is really the backbone of our economy, and there are a lot of new small businesses, especially women-owned."

Last week, however, new numbers came out that suggested that there are now more than 35 million Americans living in poverty. The number of people who are living without health insurance in America now is over 45 million.

Asked if her husband gets credit for the rebounding economy, should he also take responsibility for the numbers on the downside, the first lady said, "Absolutely. Those are things we're all working on, but those poverty numbers came from the census report that was actually earlier. The unemployment rate in the United States, right now, average rate around the U.S. is 5.5, which is lower than it was in the '90s or the '80s or the '70s. So the economy is rebounding. But absolutely, we all need to work to make sure everybody who wants a job in the United States has one."

Previously in the background, the Bush campaign has brought Mrs. Bush to the foreground to capitalize on her popularity. The first lady is described as an effective campaigner, perhaps more so than other popular first ladies, because she appeals to committed Republicans and independent voters alike.

Campaigning is something she likes doing, she told Smith. "It's a wonderful privilege to be able to travel around our country and to meet people all over our country. I like that part of it. Politics is a people business and if you like people, it's a great business to be in. I like talking about the successes of my husband's administration and there are so many. And that's fun to do as well."

Her campaign appearances are still less overtly political than her husband's. She often speaks to women's organizations and stresses the importance of education and literacy. She spent much of the previous week at the family ranch in Crawford, Texas, working on her remarks along with her husband, who was doing the same thing.

Gordon Johndroe, a spokesman for Mrs. Bush, said she's working on a speech to persuade voters to re-elect her husband, probably along the lines of her remarks at a campaign stop in Lakewood, Colo., when she said: "These are times that require a particularly strong and determined leader, and I'm proud that my husband is that kind of leader."

According to her daughter, Jenna, in an interview on "A&E's Biography," the credit should go to Mrs. Bush. Jenna said, had the president never met her mom, there is no way he could have been successful as he is.

"Well, that's very nice of a daughter to say," Mrs. Bush said. "But I doubt that. I think he'd be a success with me or without me. I'm just glad I'm along."

There is, however, a downside to campaigning, she noted. "The part that I was reluctant about when George decided to run was the criticism that I know comes in politics. You know, that's hard. That's always hard for anybody who loves the candidate."
  • Tatiana Morales

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