Michelle Obama for President? For the GOP, It’s About Dividing Democrats
Like all proud parents, Michelle and former President Barack Obama watched their youngest child graduate from college over the weekend.
Now, it is time for Michelle Obama to run for president.
And if you believe that, you are tuned into the persistent political drumbeat of the moment, one that seems to grow louder by the day. A cynic could be forgiven for suspecting that much of it originates with the right-wing echo chamber.
Indeed, some Republicans are pushing the idea of “Michelle for President” so hard that either they believe it, are up to political tricks, or are having fever dreams.
Even if they don’t believe it, Republican voices are making many Democrats pay attention to the idea.
It is an idea with the potential to split President Biden’s apparently sagging base of support from the nearly half or more of Democrats who tell pollsters they’d like to see an alternative in 2024. Those numbers range from 44% in a Monmouth University poll to 73% in an AP/NORC survey.
Whatever the truth, the whispers among Republicans and other conservatives about Mrs. Obama entering the primaries are now a dull roar in some quarters.
Former Republican House speaker Newt Gingrich told Fox Business in a recent interview that he is convinced the former first lady would be the most formidable Democrat to potentially run for the White House in 2024, after seeing her “on stage with Bruce Springsteen playing the tambourine” in front of thousands of adoring liberals.
Gingrich noted that Mrs. Obama also drew a big crowd in Los Angeles for an event with left-wing icon Oprah, and he warned that “Republicans had better pay significant attention to Michelle Obama.”
The same message bounced around the conservative echo chamber earlier this month when a conservative publication, “The Western Journal,” ran a column with the headline: “The Democratic Party Just Confirmed Michelle Obama Will Be Its Nominee and Nobody Noticed.”
As evidence, the column pointed out that Democrats chose Chicago — Mrs. Obama’s hometown — as the site of their 2024 convention, which it said is proof that the table is set for her to be crowned as the party’s nominee.
In January, Tucker Carlson, then still a Fox News host, said on his prime-time program that the former first lady’s book tour could be mistaken for the “beginnings of a presidential campaign.”
At the Conservative Political Action meeting in March, a poll of conservatives in attendance about the Democrats’ likely 2024 presidential prospects gave Mrs. Obama a slight edge over President Biden — 17% for her to 14% for Biden. (Hillary Clinton came in first, with 22%.)
Even Douglas Schoen, the longtime Democratic strategist and pollster, writing on the conservative opinion pages of the Orange County Register, has concluded that “there is only one Democrat that the Republican Party would truly, and with good reason, fear in 2024: Michelle Obama.”
Schoen suggested he was helping Democrats by pushing for Mrs. Obama to run because she is so popular with Democrats that “she is the only alternative to Biden who could save the party from a grueling primary battle.”
As conservative commentator Douglas MacKinnon put it, Mrs. Obama has the “It” factor — enormous power as a popular figure — for Democrats. Merrill Matthews, of the Institute for Policy Innovation, another conservative, says that Mrs. Obama is the “best way to recapture what Democrats see as that ole’ Obama magic.”
The speculation, especially on the right, about Mrs. Obama is now flying so fast that FactCheck.org felt compelled to write that there is “no evidence that Obama has announced or is considering a run for president, let alone that she will be the Democratic Party’s nominee.”
Last month, Mrs. Obama told Oprah Winfrey on stage during a book tour interview that she has “never expressed any interest in politics. Ever.”
And, in November, a BBC interviewer asked her, “Which question do you detest being asked?” Mrs. Obama responded: “ ‘Are you going to run for president?’ … I detest it. No, I am not going to run.”
Mrs. Obama’s passionate denials make far more sense than the claims by Republican insiders who say they are clued into her real intentions after years of demonizing her. They have derided her as “Obama’s Baby Mama,” and accused her of being a radical after she bumped fists with her husband. Most famously, the right wing has never stopped making her look like the stereotype of an angry black woman by playing clips of her saying during the 2008 campaign that “for the first time in my adult life, I am really proud of my country.”
It is more likely that some on the right would like to hurt Joe Biden or be able to run against Michelle Obama and ramp up their old attacks on her as a black radical.
To be fair to the rumors, though, Mrs. Obama’s entry into the Democratic Party’s primaries would create a political sensation. If she got into the race, the Democratic National Committee would be forced to schedule debates and President Biden would be forced to agree to take part in those, as well as to start campaigning right now.
Republicans and others are correct when they say that Mrs. Obama’s celebrity and her obvious ties to President Obama — the most iconic Democrat of recent vintage — would make her an automatic giant in the political arena.
However, consider this: Las Vegas gamblers put the odds on her winning the White House at just 2.94% — on a par with those of Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-Calif.), better than those of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-Mich.) at 1.49%, and only slightly below Vice President Kamala Harris at 3.85%.
The bad news for Republicans is that the professional gamblers give President Biden the best odds (38.17%) of not only being the Democrats’ nominee but of winning the White House for a second term.
- RNC Plans to Launch Campaign Encouraging Early Voting for the 2024 Presidential Election
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- For Biden’s 2024 Campaign, There’s No Place Like Home
- Biden’s 2024 Hail Mary: Name Barack Obama as His Running Mate?
Juan Williams is a Fox News senior political analyst and the author of numerous books, including “Eyes of the Prize: America’s Civil Rights Years, 1954-1965” (1987) and “Thurgood Marshall: American Revolutionary” (2000).
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