TV spot for Michelle as the battle of the wives begins

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The Independent US

With her husband's campaign against John McCain now formally under way, Michele Obama fired the starting gun in the other great battle of every presidential race: the first wives' contest.

The broadcaster ABC has announced that Mrs Obama will guest-host its popular daytime talk show The View later this month, following in the fashionable footsteps of Cindy McCain, who presented the programme in April.

Mrs Obama's duties will include helping Barbara Walters interview guests, and participating in the "hot topics" section, in which panellists discuss the day's news agenda.Bill Geddie, The View's executive producer, said Mrs Obama was originally asked to be a guest on the show but replied that she would prefer to co-host it, the same as Mrs McCain, offering her more of a chance to display her complete personality. "Equal time, that's hard to argue with," he said.

No guests have yet been booked for Mrs Obama's TV presenting debut, but when Cindy McCain appeared, the comedian Craig Ferguson headlined.

The move comes as both husbands seek to reach out to undecided voters by appearing on mainstream programmes such as Access Hollywood, which have a young audience. Barack Obama has travelled to The View's New York studio twice, once before and once after he began his campaign for President. John McCain has been on several times.

Mrs Obama, a Harvard-educated lawyer married to the Illinois senator for almost 16 years, is thought in some quarters to be one of her husband's greatest electoral assets. However, her comment on the campaign trail that "For the first time in my adult lifetime, I'm really proud of my country" sparked many questions about patriotism. She returned to the limelight this week at the rally in Minnesota at which her husband accepted the Democratic nomination. Many pundits have since commented on the Obamas' congratulatory handshake in front of the crowds, in which they appeared to punch each other's knuckles. In a few right-wing quarters, it was portrayed as a declaration of "black power".

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