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Tinged with contrast, Michelle Obama's personal pitch

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- For months, Michelle Obama has stood behind podiums at fundraisers and rallies, delivering many of the same lines she offered last night.

On the first night of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., first lady Michelle Obama delivers an impassioned plea to women and disillusioned Democrats that her husband is still the same man he was four years ago. NBC's Chuck Todd reports.

Famously disciplined and often relating her stump speech nearly line-for-line several times in a day, many of the first lady's biographical stories are well-worn to those who have followed her on the road: her father's pride in paying his bills on time, her husband's frustration at the glass ceiling that loomed above his grandmother, the president's late nights agonizing over the letters from Americans in trouble. 

But in front of a national audience and an adoring crowd, new imagery used by the first lady last night - and an implicit plea to voters to remain "in love" with the man they chose four years ago -- offered a personal and deeply emotive pitch that veiled some of her stories' unmistakable contrasts between her husband's personal history and that of the man who wants to replace him. 

PhotoBlog: See a 360-degree view of Michelle Obama speaking at the DNC

"We learned about dignity and decency - that how hard you work matters more than how much you make," she told the convention crowd, nudging against the narrative of Mitt Romney's wealth as a measure of his fitness to run the American economy. "Success doesn't count unless you earn it fair and square." 

Adding to typical references like the student loans that mired the Obamas as a young couple, Mrs. Obama added that her young beau's "proudest possession was a coffee table he'd found in a dumpster," hinting perhaps at an oblique response to Ann Romney's description of the ironing board that served as a dining room table for the newly married Romneys. 

David Goldman / AP

First lady Michelle Obama waves after delivering remarks to the Democratic National Convention.

 

"Barack knows the American Dream because he's lived it," she said, repeating an old staple of her stump speech that - if delivered with a hint of indignance  - could draw a direct line to the implication that Mitt Romney has not.  

But Mrs. Obama's almost prayerful tone at times eliminated the possible sting that her pitch could hold for independent voters. And previously unrecited details, like her husband's obsessive monitoring of her infant daughters' cribs, personalized a man frequently tagged as "aloof." 

While much of the first lady's material was familiar, some language - particularly on the issues of abortion rights and gay marriage - was notably more direct than words she typically offers to audiences in Pueblo and Raleigh and Richmond. 

VIDEO: Tuesday night's DNC speeches

For example, Mrs. Obama extolled the bravery of "proud Americans can be who they are and boldly stand at the altar with who they love."  (She usually praises the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy but steers clear of words like "altar.") 

And she won roars of approval in the debate hall for saying bluntly that "women are more than capable of making our own choices about our bodies and our health care." 

Like her Republican counterpart Ann Romney, Mrs. Obama uttered the word "love" often -- a total of 15 times in her remarks. 

Ultimately, the challenge for the popular first lady will be to convince disenchanted voters that they would consider agreeing with one central sentence in her speech: "I didn't think it was possible" she said of her husband, "but today I love [him] even more than I did four years ago."