First Lady Michelle Obama brings her anti-childhood obesity drive to Mississippi -- the country's most overweight state -- on Wednesday, when she will appear with GOP Gov. Haley Barbour, who has left the door open to a 2012 White House run.
Barbour cuts a portly profile; I saw him on Feb. 5 in Chicago, when he delivered a pep talk to Illinois Republicans. On Monday, in an interview with MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell, he was reminded what he said last month about a 2012 campaign: "If you see me losing 40 pounds that means I'm either running or have cancer."
Asked about 2012, Barbour, who is chairman of the Republican Governors Association, said "if, after November, there seems like there's something else to think about, well, then we'll consider thinking about it then. But, for now, I'm focused on November 2010, like every good Republican needs to be."
I asked the East Wing why Mrs. Obama picked Mississippi, and was told by an East Winger, "Mississippi has the highest obesity rates in the country, but they are also doing some very good things to address it."
Indeed, in a speech Mrs. Obama made Monday in Washington to the School Nutrition Association, she mentioned her upcoming trip to Jackson, Miss., in praising a program there where teachers eat lunch with their students. Founded in 1946, the association represents the industry responsible for serving meals in schools.
"In Jackson, Mississippi, thanks to the encouragement of the Executive Director of Food Services, Mary Hill, the superintendent now requires elementary school teachers to eat meals with their students," Mrs. Obama said to applause. "And as you can imagine, with teachers sitting at the table -- both encouraging kids to eat fruits and vegetables and eating them themselves -- fruit and vegetable consumption has gone up there."
"And I'm going to be visiting Jackson on Wednesday, and I am looking forward I'm looking forward to seeing Mary and hearing more about what she's doing. And I'm hoping to come to your areas, too," Mrs. Obama said.
Mrs. Obama, Barbour and his wife, Marsha Barbour, will visit two schools to talk about healthy eating and the need for kids to exercise. At the Pecan Park school, Mrs. Obama will tour the walking trail, part of a Mississippi effort to increase physical activity. Mrs. Obama's anti-childhood obesity drive is called "Let's Move;" the Mississippi initiative is called "Let's Go Walkin' Mississippi."
Mrs. Obama is ramping up the exercise phase of her "Let's Move" campaign. The East Wing is planning a rollout on that front in a few weeks, when Mrs. Obama will talk about strategies to get kids to play at least 60 minutes a day. I think they will try to convince kids who are not athletic and not sports-minded to see any activity as a healthy lifestyle choice.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Obama is putting a spotlight on sports and exercise anyway. On Friday, she joins with soccer professionals who are putting on a soccer clinic in Washington. Soccer, according to the East Wing, is the number one sport played by U.S. youth.
FOOTNOTE: The School Nutrition Association is backing Mrs. Obama's "Let's Move" campaign. Mrs. Obama gave the school food workers their props in her speech.
"And a lot of folks still don't understand how the cafeteria is actually one of the most important classrooms in the entire school," she said to applause.