A first lady is, first, a political helpmate. That theory brought red America to the heart of blue America last week in Massachusetts. "Welcome to Chelsea, Mrs. [Laura Bush]," read a carwash sign en route to the George F. Kelly Elementary School, where Laura Bush participated in a phonics lesson that showcased a federally funded reading program for underachieving students in this low-income neighborhood.
The first lady's visit to humble Chelsea came a few days after the Democratic presidential nominee-to-be announced [John Edwards] as his running mate at Mrs. Kerry's sprawling Pennsylvania country estate. And everything about the Chelsea event managed to showcase the stark stylistic differences between the incumbent first lady and the wife of her husband's Democratic challenger: supportive first wife versus supportive first heiress, traditional versus unconventional, scripted versus candid, low-key versus loose cannon.
The result: a highly controlled campaign event, telegraphing nice photographs of the first lady on [John Kerry]'s home turf. One photo was published on the front page of The Boston Globe, right under a story headlined "Kerry camp on the defensive after celebrities bash Bush." That is rare serendipity for the Bush campaign in Kerry country.
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