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Michelle Obama: President's 'Character Witness' at Convention

BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/GettyImages(CHARLOTTE, N.C.) -- First lady Michelle Obama takes center stage on the opening night of the Democratic National Convention, and as one senior Obama campaign official told ABC News, she will be a "character witness" for the president's decision-making process during troubled times.

The first lady will talk about "who the president is, the values that drive him, what motivates him," and although the DNC will not have nightly themes like last week's Republican National Convention, she will highlight the Democrats' one big idea: "How you build an economy meant to last with a strong middle class at its core."

As the first lady readies to rally her husband's base in Charlotte tonight, President Obama, who will watch the speech on TV from the White House, is setting the bar high. Speaking Tuesday morning in the battleground state of Virginia, he said that the convention is "just like a relay, and you start out with the fastest person."

"Whatever I say here today, it's going to be, at best, a distant second to the speech you will hear tonight from the star of the Obama family, Michelle Obama," the president told a crowd of over 11,000 at Norfolk State University, the final stop on his "Road to Charlotte" tour.

With her high favorability, the first lady is viewed as one of the Obama campaign's greatest assets. In her opening-night speech to the Democratic convention, she is expected to lay out a personal view of the president's vision for the future of the country.

While the first lady is expected to set a positive tone, she will likely draw not-so-subtle contrasts between her husband's background and that of his wealthier rival Mitt Romney.

"I remind people that Barack knows what it means when a family struggles," she told supporters in Davenport, Iowa, last month. "And he knows what it means to want something better for your kids and your grandkids. And that's why I love him, and that's why I will have his back forever."

While his wife takes center stage, the president remains in Washington, where he will watch the convention on TV.

"I'm going to be at home, watching it with my girls and I'm going to try not to let them see their daddy cry," Obama said. "Because when Michelle starts talking, I start getting all misty."

Obama will head to North Carolina Wednesday afternoon ahead of his acceptance speech Thursday night.

Michelle Obama will be introduced by Elaine Brye of Winona, Ohio. According to the Obama campaign, Brye is a mother of five, four of whom are currently serving in the military.

"A teacher, wife, and mom, Elaine's connection to the service is deep-rooted: She grew up with a father who served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam," the campaign said.

The Democrats will spotlight other Americans like Brye throughout the week as they push three main messages, according to senior campaign officials.

First, the convention will frame the 2012 election as a "choice between the president's vision for the economy vs. Mitt Romney's vision for the economy."

Second, all week long the campaign plans to walk through some of the tough decisions President Obama has made during his first term, such as passing health care reform and bailing out the automobile industry.

Third, the Democrats will "lay out a path forward" -- essentially pushing the vision thing.

"We didn't hear anything last week from Mitt Romney about where he wanted to take the country or any tangible plan to do it," an Obama campaign adviser said. "You'll hear that here. You'll hear concrete, workable, clear plans of how to move this country forward."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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