In the wake of Donald Trump’s surprise victory on Election Day, some disappointed Democrats hope they can persuade Michelle Obama to run for President in 2020.
Using the hashtag #Michelle2020, Americans took to social media to express their support for the first lady’s candidacy four years from now. Some called her “the best thing to ever happen to the White House.” Others created slogans for Mrs. Obama’s candidacy that parody Mr. Trump’s “Make America Great Again,” from “Make America Safe Again” to “Make the World Great Again.”
There’s just one issue: Obama herself has repeatedly stated that she has no desire to become president. Some may hope that her attitude has changed now that Mr. Trump has been elected, seeing her as the right person to heal the divisions highlighted by this election cycle.
As first lady, Obama had consistently high approval ratings. A recent Gallup poll indicated that 64 percent of Americans view the outgoing first lady favorably, a number significantly higher than President Obama, Trump, or Hillary Clinton. In 2010, Forbes rated her as the most powerful woman in the world, thanks to the difference she has made in the lives of military families, her advocacy for child nutrition, and – of course – her fashion sense.
It’s significant that Obama’s popularity remained high even as her role in the Clinton campaign grew. Toward the beginning of her tenure as first lady, she focused on less contentious issues like children’s health and education for girls worldwide.
As the campaign went on, however, she gave what many pundits consider the two most successful speeches of the election campaign. Her speech to the Democratic National Convention, which included the now-famous line, “When they go low, we go high,” emphasized the values of inclusion and equality.
“We are always stronger together,” she told the country, a message now echoed by widespread calls for post-election unity.
Toward the end of the campaign, she was repeatedly deployed as a Clinton campaign surrogate, in an effort to win over Millennials and minority voters, two key constituencies whom the campaign felt Clinton might struggle to reach. Obama’s ability to connect with these voters, coupled with her high overall popularity, suggest that many Americans might be prepared to consider voting for her.
The Clinton campaign set a precedent for Obama to run, if she chooses to. Like Clinton, Obama is a former first lady with a history of public service, not to mention a law degree.
Speaking at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, in March, however, Obama said categorically, “I will not run for president. No, nope, not going to do it.”
She cited her children as one reason behind that decision, saying she would not want to put them through another 8 years. She hopes to continue the work to improve people’s lives that she began in the White House, but suggested that she might be more impactful once she is no longer first lady. The president, too, has indicated that Michelle Obama would never run for office.
But supporters may be able to draw hope from Obama’s first joint appearance with Hillary Clinton. If the need to support Clinton won out over her dislike of campaigning, could it also impel her to seek the presidency in 2020?
“This is truly an unprecedented election, and that’s why I’m out here,” she said.