Washington, D.C. When speaking to voters in recent months, President Barack Obama was apt to criticize scheming Republicans who wrecked the economy and deserved a “back seat” in American politics.
But a softer, gentler Obama emerges in the pages of a new children’s book that he authored, perhaps the first step in a reinvention that Democrats hope will win back some of the female voters turned off by the cool, lecturing partisan who got a “shellacking” in the midterm elections.
Obama’s picture book, “Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters,” was released in bookstores on Tuesday, his third book and one that might prove every bit as useful to his political career as the first two.
With illustrations by Loren Long, the cover shows Obama’s two daughters, Malia, 12, and Sasha, 9, walking their dog Bo on a sun-dappled lawn.
“Have I told you lately how wonderful you are?” the book opens. “How the sound of your feet running from afar brings dancing rhythms to my day?”
Obama wrote the book himself, his attorney said, submitting the manuscript before he took office in January 2009.
“This author writes his own content,” said Robert Barnett, who represented Obama in the book deal. “It was written totally by him, every word.”
The book is Obama’s second installment in a three-book contract he signed in 2004. The first book, “The Audacity of Hope,” helped propel Obama’s presidential bid.
Along with Twitter, Web videos and Facebook, the White House has used every new media outlet available to reach voters not normally clued into politics. Obama’s children’s book, with a first printing of half a million copies, is a chance for him to extend that reach to a prized demographic group: mothers.
The book allows the president to reintroduce himself to women who, surveys show, have cooled to him since the 2008 presidential election. A Gallup poll released earlier this month showed Obama’s approval rating among women at 46 percent — down from 70 percent in the weeks after he took office.
The White House wants to drive those figures back up. To that end, Obama and the first lady next week will appear on an hourlong Barbara Walters show dubbed “A Thanksgiving Visit with President and Mrs. Obama.” ABC will air the interview on Nov. 26 — the day after Thanksgiving.
Pollsters who have studied Obama’s ups and downs said the children’s book, in particular, may prove important to Obama’s recovery.
Celinda Lake, president of Lake Research Partners, said in an interview that Obama tends to talk in big-picture, macroeconomic terms that don’t resonate with female voters.
“Women tend to respond more to the personal, to the micro,” Lake said. “One of the voting groups that he did quite poorly with was married women — including married moms — so this book is a wonderful opportunity.”
The text has a lyrical tone reminiscent of Obama’s autobiography, “Dreams From My Father.” It celebrates 13 Americans — Sitting Bull, George Washington, Jackie Robinson and Martin Luther King Jr. among them.