But at a time when a bumper crop of women candidates are on the ballot—10 for governor, six for the Senate, and 138 for the House—a disturbing number of women voters are either checked out of the election or forsaking the Democratic Party, according to recent polling by Gallup, CBS, and The New York Times.

Which raises a tough question: Could the country’s most popular female political figure have started earlier, shouted louder, and helped turn the straying sisters around? Or has the first lady—who famously coined the title “mom-in-chief”—relinquished the feminist brand, to the detriment of the Democrats?…

Of course, Mrs. Obama isn’t a magician—she isn’t even an elected official. And there may only be so much any first lady can do to move the electoral needle. But while the Democrats have many female surrogates—Representative Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, DNC Co-Chair Donna Brazile, even Obama’s close friend Valerie Jarrett—none have been able to pack the punch of Palin. (Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, arguably the party’s most influential female leader, is legally barred from campaigning.) As not just mom but woman-in-chief, Obama seemed the most likely voice to break through.