TODAY   |  October 16, 2012

Michelle Obama: At dinner, the president is just ‘dad’

All eyes will be on the presidential debate tonight, where first lady Michelle Obama will be in a front-row seat. She sat down with TODAY’s Ryan Seacrest to talk about the experience of voting for her husband, the ways they encourage each other, and their lives at home with their children.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> this half hour with "today" on the trail. today's special correspondent ryan seacrest caught up with the first lady michelle obama at a campaign event in ohio, and they talked a lot about things, including her early voting effort.

>> so you cast your ballot today.

>> i did it. i voted today.

>> is it a bit surreal to vote for your husband for president?

>> i would say that. it's interesting to see his name on the ballot, but it was rewarding, refreshing. you know, i am confident in my vote because i've seen this president in action for the last three and a half years. we've got health care now. we're out of iraq. the economy is on the right track, so i'm -- i'm -- i voted for my husband.

>> on the record. you voted via absentee ballot . does that take any fun out of it not going to the polls and seeing all the pomp and circumstance ?

>> you know, actually, as a busy mom, i'm still a working mom, i look for convenience, because who knows where i'll be on election day . there's no reason with early voting and absentee ballot voting that citizens in this country shouldn't be able to make their voices heard.

>> well, as we speak your husband is preparing for debate number two.

>> yes.

>> and after debate number one he had said about you that you are his toughest critic. what did you say to him when the two of you walked backstage?

>> i am and was and will continue to be so proud of my husband, and when i see him up on that stage, i still see the man that i fell in love with, that i'm proud of. he talked from his heart. he talks about values, so i gave him a big hug and i said way to go.

>> have you spoken to him about the prep because i know because he's been behind closed doors the last couple of days.

>> i talk to him every night. our check-in is really about the kids. he wants to know what did we talk about at dinner. how is sasha doing? how is basketball? did malia win her game?

>> you'll in the front row .

>> i usually get a good seat.

>> does he make eye contact with you? does he look at you for encouragement?

>> you know. i can never tell, but i'm always primed just in case he is, so i'm -- i'm perched. i'm looking at him. i'm smiling. i'm giving a thumbs up if he can see it. with the lights you can never tell. i assume that he can, so i make sure i'm always giving him that positive love

>> you said something about him that i wanted to ask you about. you said he'll go out of his way to inconvenience himself and take the heat to make sure you and the girls experience as few bumps as possible so what's an example of that?

>> gosh, there's so many ways, but i think one of the things that he does is that when he walks in the door, he's barack, and he's dad. i am -- i am always astounded when i read in the paper or i talk to some advisers and i found out what he's actually dealt with in any given day, but when we sit down to dinner, you know, he let's that all go for that moment. he is there for me. he is there for sasha and malia , and he's there as a dad.

>> both of you trying to achieve that balance with intense schedules. your schedule is very impressive. do you get a chance to stick to a normal healthy diet . do you get a chance to exercise? what's life like on the road for you?

>> we have a lot of support so i can't even begin to complain. we can bring food on the plane. we've got good food on the plane so i'll make sure that if i don't like what they are serving i'll bring a sandwich.

>> you've got a lunch box .

>> yeah, i do, i live the white house with a little carrier, got my salad and my veggies and my turkey chili, an easy thing to eat on the road.

>> do you have a guilty pleasure when you travel? for me it's peanut m & ms.

>> i'm a big peanut m & m fan but you know what, reese cups. i like the peanut butter and the peanut butter and chocolate.

>> that's a go-to thing. once you start, you can't stop.

>> back to malia and sasha . what do you think has been the most eye-opening for the girls since they have been at the white house ?

>> you know, i haven't had a chance to let me ask them. let me tell you who these girls have met, nelson mandela , the dalai lama, the queen of england.

>> pretty good education.

>> this is their play list of meeting people. that's why, you know, when people ask me, the kids, how do they manage? we feel so bad. normal lives, and, you know, this has been a wonderful experience for them, and, you know, there's no way that they or us or anyone could complain about the -- about the minor inconvenience that come along with being the president's daughters.

>> there's no doubt that you've had to sacrifice a great deal for this life, and i'm wondering at the end of your time at the white house , since your husband has had a chance to pursue his dream.

>> yeah.

>> is it his turn then to support you in what you want to do, and if so, what would that be?

>> yeah. that's a good question. i mean, in some ways he's supporting me now as first lady. i mean, the fact that i have complete discretion over the issues that i choose, and in order to do that i've got to have a president who is going to have my back around the issues that i care about, so childhood obesity is directly linked to his desire to make sure that we have a healthy nation. the support that he's given me and the long leash to really reach out to military families and be that spokesperson, you know, has been great, so when we leave here i want to continue working on those issues, but who knows. you never know what the future holds, and who knows what life will look like in another five years when this is over, and i know that whatever i do he'll be right there with me as he always has been.

>> that's the first lady, michelle obama with ryan seacrest , and a reminder can you watch the second presidential debate tonight 9:00 eastern, 6:00 pacific right