There has been some recent media buzz, as well as hope, about the possibility that former First Lady Michelle Obama might be persuaded to enter the 2024 presidential race. While that prospect is very unlikely – she has always rebuffed any notion that she might run for office – the enthusiasm is understandable. As the Democratic presidential nominee, or even the vice-presidential nominee, she would give Democrats their best chance at retaining the White House.
As it stands, President Biden’s chances of winning reelection against a credible Republican presidential candidate (which excludes former President Trump) aren’t great.
The majority of voters don’t want the 80-year-old Biden to run again, including a solid majority (57 percent) of Democratic voters. And that majority is likely to grow if voters become even more concerned about the president’s health and ability to perform his duties as president.
Moreover, a number of Biden’s recent moves, such as embracing Trump immigration policies he so often condemned and his efforts to oppose progressives’ defund-the-police initiatives, are alienating the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, where most of the party’s political energy resides.
But if Biden can’t win, who can? Michelle Obama would have a good chance. Here’s why.
Democrats see Barack Obama’s presidency as a type of modern “Camelot,” the term often used to refer to John F. Kennedy’s presidency, when a young, smart and appealing president and his sophisticated young wife occupied the White House. As one historian has described it, “The term Camelot has been used retrospectively to refer to the Kennedy administration, which lasted between January 1961 and November 1963, capturing the charisma of Kennedy and his family.”
Democrats are nostalgic for the charisma they perceived emanating from Obama and his family, while no one has ever associated charisma with Joe Biden.
The fact is Obama is still the most popular and capable figure in today’s Democratic Party. As Fox News pointed out last October, just before the midterms, when Democrats were urging Obama to get out and campaign, “The former president, who left office in January 2017, remains extremely popular with Democrats and moderately popular with independent voters.”
If Michelle were on the Democratic ticket, Barack would be a close adviser, not just to Michelle but to the administration and the Democratic Party. In short, capturing Michelle would be the best way to recapture what Democrats see as that ole’ Obama magic.
In addition, a Michelle nomination would be a type of political payback for the Hillary Clinton loss, only better because Michelle is more popular.
Hillary wanted to be the first female U.S. president. She failed, and Democrats, and especially Hillary, have never gotten over that defeat at the hands of Donald Trump.
Hillary still believes the election was stolen somehow, perhaps through Russian interference.
If Michelle Obama were to win the 2024 presidential election, and especially if she were to beat Donald Trump if he were the GOP candidate, it would seem to Democrats like justice had been restored.
Finally, if Michelle refused to head the Democratic ticket, deferring to Biden’s bid for reelection, she is the one person who might be able to nudge Vice President Kamala Harris aside.
Democrats, and the public in general, are unhappy with Harris, and with good reason. Her speeches often turn into strings of unconnected words and thoughts. And she has failed the few tasks assigned her, like managing the Southern border crisis.
Team Harris knows the problems, and Democratic leaders have started trying to tamp down the criticisms.
The situation is reminiscent of President George H.W. Bush’s reelection campaign in 1992. The vice president was Dan Quayle, a former senator from Indiana. Quayle was a decent guy, but he had his own problems when he spoke publicly, and the media skewered him for it.
Several Republican leaders in the summer of ’92 tried to convince Bush, who was facing a tough reelection bid, to drop Quayle and pick a different veep. They argued he needed someone who would help the ticket, not drag it down. Bush declined, and then lost his reelection bid.
As a presidential candidate, Biden was pressured to choose a black female as his running mate, and he did. That wouldn’t change if Michelle were to become his running mate. Plus, he would get a smart, articulate vice president who would enhance the ticket and would be wildly popular with Democrats and many independents.
It probably won’t happen. But having Michelle Obama on the ticket, even if only as vice president, would give Democrats their best chance of winning in 2024.