Michelle Obama boosts Reid with Reno speech

RENO -- First Lady Michelle Obama promoted healthy lifestyles among women and children Tuesday in Nevada and tried to help breathe life into the re-election campaign of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, calling him "one of my favorite people in the world."

"Over the years, he has been a tireless advocate on behalf of women," Obama told about 1,600 people in a keynote address to a women's summit in a downtown Reno convention hall.

The Nevada Democrat, facing trouble in the polls in his bid for a fifth term in November, has been a leader on such things as health care reform for women, protection from domestic violence and equal pay for equal work, she said.

"This state and this country is lucky to have Harry Reid and (his wife) Landra working on our behalf in Washington," said the first lady, who was headed to Las Vegas for another appearance with Reid Tuesday afternoon.

President Barack Obama carried Nevada in 2008 and Reid already has enjoyed his support this year, with the president traveling to Las Vegas in February for two public events and a campaign fundraiser for the Senate majority leader.

A Pew Research Center survey from November showed 71 percent of respondents expressing a favorable opinion of Michelle Obama, compared with 16 percent unfavorable. Those results suggest Michelle Obama is a more popular first lady than Hillary Rodham Clinton or Laura Bush early during their husbands' administrations.

Reid said in introducing Michelle Obama in Reno on Tuesday that only his children did more than the first lady to reach out to his wife after she broke her back recently in a serious traffic accident. Reid said he and the president share in common the strong support they enjoy from their wives and family.

"I think that Michelle is the reason for President Obama's calm demeanor," Reid said in remarks to the conference.

"I've seen him in the most difficult times a person could be involved in, but he is the same person. I've never heard him swear at anyone, never heard him raise his voice at anyone. ... Always he is the even, calm person we have come to know," he said.

As for his own prospects, Reid sidestepped questions from reporters before the conference and refused to discuss the 12 Republicans vying for his seat in the June 8 primary election.

Polls have shown former Nevada GOP Chairwoman Sue Lowden and ex-state assemblywoman Sharron Angle about even in the primary, with Las Vegas businessman Danny Tarkanian trailing slightly.

"I have no idea who will be my opponent," Reid said. "I don't vote in the Republican primary so I don't study it very much."

Is he worried about troubling poll numbers that show him trailing and tied with some of the GOP hopefuls?

"We'll have to work hard. There's five months to go," he said. "I'm not one that is very boastful. I'm just going to continue doing the best I can. The people of Nevada know me pretty well."

Asked if national pundits are underestimating, he answered with a smile, "Have to wait until November, huh?"