By David Gregory Chief White House correspondent
NBC News
updated 3/31/2004 5:52:19 PM ET 2004-03-31T22:52:19

On a campaign day, First Lady Laura Bush is out the door by 6 a.m. and on board a flight to Florida moments later a three-stop swing through the biggest political battleground state of them all.

Mrs. Bush will make headlines in Florida promoting the president’s education policy — a passion of hers. But in between stops, she speaks out for the first time about Richard Clarke, the former national security council employee who is casting doubts about President George W. Bush’s administration’s anti-terrorism efforts prior to 9/11.

She worries Clarke’s book and even the work of the 9/11 commission have the trappings of an election year attack.

“I don’t see how my husband could let people know any more how serious he is about protecting the United States and the people of the United States.”

Does she fear, at this stage, that there is some political fallout?

“No, not really… I just feel like people know him better than what any charges might be from someone who just, who they don’t know.”

No one knows this president better than his wife, and campaign strategists say no one is a better advocate for him.

That’s why Mrs. Bush has had a much higher profile lately. She appears prominently in TV ads and is expected to broaden the president’s appeal among women.

“I know him best and I have the opportunity to tell people a viewpoint of him that they might not have or might not know.”

About ten hours into her day. Where are she headed now?

“I’m headed to a fundraiser for a victory committee.”

Mrs. Bush may fit the image of a more traditional, less political First Lady, but she isn’t afraid to use the tremendous influence she has over her husband and his campaign if she sees something she doesn’t like.

“I speak up, of course, absolutely — to him," she says. "I’m not going to call people on the phone, other people, and make them feel bad.”

As for this campaign, this is the last one for the Bushes and it is sentimental.

David Gregory: “There is that great picture from the ‘78 race... You two on the back —

Laura Bush:  “On the back of a pickup in a parade.”

David Gregory: “Campaigning has come a long way for you.”

Laura Bush:  “It has.”

This campaign day ends after 11 o’clock at night.

While the first lady wants to resume the normal life she had before the White House, she says for now it can wait another four years.

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