Presidential races

Buzz builds about Michelle’s future

Michelle Obama’s star turn on the 2016 campaign trail has the political world buzzing about her post-White House plans. 

The first lady has been dubbed the most valuable player of this election cycle for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton after a series of speeches in which she hammered Republican nominee Donald Trump and his treatment of women.  

As Obama prepares to campaign alongside Clinton this week in North Carolina, some Democrats can’t help but wonder whether the 52-year-old first lady might someday be convinced to launch a political career of her own.

{mosads}“In this environment of nasty and partisan politics, who wouldn’t want someone that is smart, articulate, caring and respected in politics making his or her voice heard?” said Robert Wolf, a fundraiser for President Obama who has also advised him on economic issues. “And my friend Michelle Obama would be amazing.”

But Wolf, along with other friends and allies of Obama, insist there’s no chance she will ever run for office, citing her longstanding distaste for partisan politics. 

“I would predict Superman turning the Earth the other way on its axis before she runs for political office,” said one longtime friend of the first lady who speaks to her regularly.   

David Axelrod, a longtime Obama adviser, recently told conservative talk radio host Hugh Hewitt he “would bet everything I own” against the prospect of Michelle Obama ever running for office. 

Obama, the friend added, sees politics as important “from a common place as a mom, citizen and wife.”

“She sees the importance of a political system and has embraced the opportunity to move the needle and make the country a better place, but that is completely separate from wanting to raise money and cut deals and deal in the thrust and parry of modern politics,” the friend said.

People who know the first lady well expect that she will continue to devote her time and energy to the causes she championed in the East Wing, including healthy eating for children, education for girls and aiding military families.  

But they expect her portfolio to go well beyond that, too. 

“I’m sure she’s going to write a book. I’m sure she’s going to do speeches, and it will be very much up to her what she wants to do,” said Anita McBride, a former chief of staff to first lady Laura Bush who has come to know Obama’s team. 

“I think she is going to be in a very strong position to utilize her voice for the rest of her life without having to go into politics.” 

But Obama likely has not made any final decisions on how to continue her advocacy work after leaving the White House, according to her friend. 

“I think she’s going to do what she usually does, take a step back, take a look at all the options, decide what’s best for her, her family and what will make the biggest impact,” the friend said. “I suspect she doesn’t know.” 

The first lady will certainly be involved in the Obama Foundation, based on the South Side of Chicago, where she grew up. 

“I’m thrilled to be able to put this resource in the heart of the neighborhood that means the world to me,” Obama said in a video on the future work of the foundation, sitting beside her husband.  

Obama’s aversion to public office dates back to her husband’s time in the Illinois state legislature. 

In his 2006 book “The Audacity of Hope,” President Obama wrote about how his frequent trips to the state capitol in Springfield left “little time for conversation, much less romance” with his wife, who was living at home with their two children in Chicago.  

She “put up no pretense about being happy” with his decision to run for Congress in 2000 — a race he eventually lost. When Obama decided to run for U.S. Senate in 2004, the couple made a deal that if he lost, he would leave politics entirely, according to New York Times correspondent Jodi Kantor. 

Despite her reservations about his political career, Michelle Obama engaged fully with her husband’s Senate run, making public speeches and participating in private strategy sessions. 

She campaigned for her husband in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections and has taken an active role in Clinton’s campaign in large part because of her disdain for Trump. 

“Some of you might be aware that Michelle does not really love politics. This was not her first choice for me. She would have preferred a quieter life,” President Obama told a group of donors Monday in Southern California. 

“But the passion that she’s brought to campaigning this time speaks to the degree that this election is different, the choice is different.”

But the first lady has also felt the harsh glare of the political spotlight. Republicans hammered her during the 2008 campaign for saying that “for the first time in my adult life, I am really proud of my country.” And she’s come under attack from Trump over her criticism of his comments about women. 

The Obamas won’t immediately escape the Beltway when the next president is inaugurated; they’ll remain in Washington for the next two years while their younger daughter, Sasha, finishes high school.

Beyond that, the family is reportedly considering a move to New York City. 

Wherever they live, Michelle Obama will likely relish the chance to step back from public life. She’s spoken frequently about her desire to regain personal freedoms she lost in the White House, such as the ability to drive a car or shop without a security detail.  

She’s been known to make incognito visits to Target and trips to SoulCycle studios in the Washington area — albeit with a Secret Service escort in tow.  

“My hopes are to recapture some of the everydayness, some anonymity,” Obama told InStyle magazine in September when asked about her post-White House plans. “And we know that will take some time. But I always joke that I dream of opening up my front door and walking out without any notification, without any security.

“And it will be nice to open up the paper, look at the front page, and know that you’re not responsible for every headline. … It’s sort of like, it’s not my job.” 

Tags Donald Trump Hillary Clinton Michelle Obama

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