No, Michelle Obama is not running for president: The former First Lady has been adamant for many years that she has no interest at all in running for president herself. A Wall Street Journal editorial from months back suggests that she could step in for Joe Biden if he doesn’t run.
Michelle Obama Running? Not So Fast…
Throughout her time as First Lady, Michelle Obama emerged as quite a popular figure among Democratic voters. Her approval rating, for most of the past 15 years, has been higher than that of her husband.
While Michelle has often appeared on the campaign trail, and regularly speaks at each Democratic National Convention, the former First Lady has been adamant, all along, that she has no interest in running for political office herself.
She stated this most recently in an interview with Oprah Winfrey earlier this year.
Nevertheless, speculation about a Michelle Obama presidential run has persisted, from a few different directions.
Sometimes it’s Democrats unhappy with the current crop of candidates at the time who think the former First Lady would be better, or conservatives either seeking to fearmonger — as the National Republican Senatorial Committee did in 2022, with a fundraising mailer based on the idea of Michelle running — or who see an Obama restoration as the culmination of many years of the Obamas pulling the strings behind the scenes.
The latter is a sequel to previous fear-mongering about the Clintons, with the difference being that Hillary Clinton did seek the presidency.
Where Did the Rumor Start?
Some recent floatings of the Michelle-for-President rumor have come from another place: Mindless horse race politics.
An op-ed in The Hill last year described Michelle as the Democrats’ “break glass in case of emergency” candidate, pointing at her popularity and “winner’s aura.”
The latest version in a Wall Street Journal op-ed by pollsters Douglas Schoen and Andrew Stein earlier in the year. The headline: “If Biden Bows Out, How About Michelle Obama?”
Citing a then ABC News/Washington Post poll that showed Biden six points behind Donald Trump — one that, compared to other recent polls, may very well be an outlier — Schoen and Stein went straight to speculating about the possibility of the Democrats replacing Biden as their standard bearer.
“We aren’t the only Democrats considering alternatives and wondering: If not Mr. Biden, who should be the nominee?” Schoen wrote.
The op-ed goes through several potential replacement candidates, including Kamala Harris, Pete Buttigieg, and Gavin Newsom, only to find them all wanting.
The name of Hillary Clinton — whom Schoen once worked for — was invoked as well, although the authors ultimately cite a Zogby Analytics poll from last year showing that the most popular non-Biden 2024 candidate among Democrats would be… Michelle Obama.
“Mrs. Obama is popular within the Democratic Party. She left the White House with a 68% favorability rating nationally and was one of the most admired women in the U.S. from 2018 through 2020, according to Gallup polls. With a broad network of supporters and the ability to resurrect,” Schoen and Stein write. “Barack Obama’s political organization, she would be the strongest candidate by far.”
As for the customary paragraph hand-waving away the former First Lady’s 15-year unbroken streak of stating that she has no interest in seeing public office, the authors say that “while Mrs. Obama has expressed no desire to seek national office, she may be persuaded to jump in if Mr. Biden can’t run and Mr. Trump appears close to returning to the White House.”
Schoen and Stein refer to themselves as Democrats and use the term “we” to describe the party, but as Politico pointed out back in 2011, Schoen has frequently done a maneuver in which he describes himself as a Democrat but either bashes the party or gives them advice that entails the party capitulating to whatever Republicans want at the time. Schoen also appeared on Fox News frequently for many years, although he joined Newsmax in 2021.
Bottomline: If Michelle Obama says she is not running, at least for now, we are going to take her word for it.
Author Expertise and Experience
Stephen Silver is a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive. He is an award-winning journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.
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