Poll: Michelle Obama Would Be Frontrunner in 2020 If She Ran

Yves here. On the one hand, those of us who have some appreciation of the damage done by the Obama presidency, like no fault bank bailouts while the US had nine million largely preventable foreclosures, the idea of Michelle Obama president is firmly in “Kill me now” territory.

The big reason I’m not unduly worried? Barack is too much of a narcissist to be happy being First Husband.

By Thomas Neuburger. Originally published at DownWithTyranny!

Michelle Obama in New York signing copies of her $65 million memoir. To date it has sold more than 10 milliion copies. Photograph: Richard Drew/AP (source)
It’s no secret that the Democratic Party establishment wants nothing more than to eliminate the possibility of a rebel (“change”) candidate getting into the general election under its banner. That means, no one like Bernie Sanders — not Sanders himself, nor Elizabeth Warren, nor anyone else who would actually implement policies of broad, real, Sanders-like “change” — will be allowed to represent the Party in 2020.

Faux-Change candidates, yes. No-Change candidates, yes. But no actual rebels. The history of the 2016 primary, plus the histories of any number of races interfered with by the DCCC, the DSCC and the DNC, attest to this fact. We could expand on that, and will, but not here.

Which means that the current leaders and controllers of the Democratic Party have a problem, a Sanders (or Sanders-like) problem, since Sanders-like policies are extremely popular with actual voters.

So how could these leaders defeat the Sanders-like candidate? There can only be two ways: A) find a corporate-friendly Faux-Change or No-Change candidate who can acquire more delegates than any of the rebel candidates, then let the superdelegates confirm her on the second ballot; or B) prevent a front-running rebel candidate from winning enough delegates to win on the first ballot, then let the superdelegates select a “compromise” none-of-the-above candidate and confirm her.

With the current field of candidates, it’s hard to imagine the first option occurring. Look at the polling below.

If Biden enters the race then falls below Sanders, he won’t be able to recover. People now think as well of Biden as they will ever think. As soon as the truth about Biden starts getting splashed in people’s faces and they start really paying attention, they’ll turn away. None of that truth is good.

Who among the rest of the candidates can overtake Sanders, or Warren should she surge? Top cop Kamala Harris, lingering well below the leaders, the hardnosed California prosecutor who proudly and coolly bragged about smoking dope, then jailed anyone else who did the same? How does that play to millennials? Cory “Don’t be mean to Bain” Booker? The fast-rising Mayor of South Bend, Indiana? Robert Francis O’Rourke, the fossil-fuel-friendly, corporate candidate in JFK clothing? Amy “Clean my comb” Klobuchar? She’s tied for seventh tied “Someone Else” and the needle for her isn’t rising at all.

Which leaves option B: Keep the Sanders-like candidate’s delegate count below 50%, then introduce a “compromise” candidate, someone acceptable to both corporate Democrats and the voting public, to take the nomination (reluctantly of course) on the second, third, or fourth ballot.

Yet who has enough popularity, and clean enough hands, to pull that off? Certainly no one on the list above.

Enter (reluctantly, of course) Michelle Obama.

Michelle Obama would be tied with Biden as frontrunner if she ran in 2020, poll shows

Former first lady Michelle Obama tied with former Vice President Joe Biden as the top choice among Democratic voters when asked who should be the party’s nominee in 2020.

A Hill-HarrisX poll released Tuesday [February 19] found that 25 percent of Democrats said they would back Obama in the party primary over nine other declared or potential candidates, including Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas).

Obama has said she is not running[.]

And there, I think, is the knight in neoliberal armor, someone widely popular with the Democratic voting public, acceptable to return-to-the-status-quo independents, and more than acceptable to pro-corporate Party leaders. No other surprise, waiting-in-the wings candidate has this combination of qualities, not one, and I’ve looked at the whole list, from Oprah to Stacy Abrams to Tammy Baldwin.

The only question, of course, is how to manage the switch without leaving the country in shock and filling “change” voters with rage. That will be the subject of a longer piece. Stay tuned.

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  1. Anon

    I have always believed Michelle’s word that she won’t ever be interested in running for political office. Her ambitions have been clearly different from those of a woman like Hillary Clinton. Michelle certainly enjoys taking advantages of the perks that come with being married to a powerful politician, and has benefited from those perks since they were still in Chicago. However, I never thought she actually enjoyed campaigning all that much. Now, she is ensured millions of dollars from here on out for creative and interesting work that won’t be nearly as stressful as being a career politician. All she has to do is write books, give speeches, and produce movies for Netflix. It will keep her in the public eye, which she seems to enjoy, and maintain her high favorability rating. She will continue to help the Democratic Party, but only by coming out once in a while to give a few speeches at pep rallies for whoever is crowned the Democratic nominee. I don’t think she wants to devote a lot of her time beyond that. I would genuinely be surprised if she ever runs for political office.

    1. Lambert Strether

      Depends on how many voters there are who want to reset the clock to pre-Crash 2008.

      My guess is a large part of the letterhead-and-lanyard crowd, not much more. Of course, such-like control the commanding heights of the press and the Democrats, so it could happen. Let’s talk about it over brunch.

    2. NotTimothyGeithner

      This. She was a traditional spouse of the president. The idea Michelle should be President is insulting to HRC because Hillary was an active member of the Clinton Administration. Michelle had the staff plant a garden and declared victory on childhood obesity.

      “First lady” was a nickname, and we shouldn’t use it. It reeks of monarchism.

      1. jhallc

        She is not Eleanor Roosevelt and will never be. Doesn’t have the strength or the conviction in my mind, just like her husband.

    3. Pete

      I think there might be something to be said for the fact that she wants to be “loved by all” and the best way to destroy popularity is being elected.

    4. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Assuming ambitions drive people (or drive only her, not the case for, say, Warren, Beto, Sanders, Gabbard, etc.) to run.

      Maybe Ms. Obama wants to save the country. And perhaps Hillary will step forward to save the D party at the convention, though, in her case, being the first in the Guinness Book of Records is not to be ignored.

      And should we assume her policy positions will be same as Barry’s?

      To favor her, or to disfavor her at this time, without knowing more, would be like focusing on Tulsi is a surfer…ignoring concrete material benefits, or the lack thereof.

      1. pretzelattack

        to save the country, she would have to implicitly disavow her husband’s heritage, including his militarism and his much prized aca. i haven’t seen any evidence of her doing that.

  2. ambrit

    I have been saying for a while now:
    “Hillary/Michelle 2020”
    “Because America Needs Two Mommies.”
    Do not underestimate the raw hunger for power of Hillary Clinton.
    She saw her dreams of being first Woman President go up in smoke in 2008 when Obama “stole” the Party nomination from her. She will not take kindly to a second Obama doing it again in 2020.
    To this end, what degree of control does the Clinton ‘Machine’ still have in the Democrat Party apparatus? Does the Clinton Foundation still hold the Democrat Party purse strings? That will tell the tale when the dust settles after the Battle Royale that will be the 2020 Democrat Party “Brokered Convention.”

  3. The Rev Kev

    That chart on the current field of candidates had me stumped so I thought that I would go looking for the original report. You can find it at https://morningconsult.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Political-Intelligence-2.19.19.pdf on page 7 for anybody interested. They say that they interview 5,000 registered voters across the United States to get these statistics but as the Scotsman said: “I ha mu doots!” as to its quality. Going into the source further which put this report together, the Morning Consult began only 5 years ago and has since signed partnership agreements with Vox, Fortune and Bloomberg News among others. Not bad for a new company. But I think that they are asking the wrong question.
    Who cares who is most popular here. It’s like being voted most popular student in high school only then to graduate into the real world. The real question that should be asked is “Who on that list is most capable of going head to head with Trump”. You answer that question and you have your pick. I remember the clown-car that was the batch of Republican candidates back in 2016 and how they were ripped to shreds by Trump who won psychologically by being able to get under their skin. Can you see Beto taking on Trump? No, me neither. It would be a massacre. Same with Harris and I can just imagine Trump nicknaming Biden as “handsy Uncle Joe”. Maybe Gabbard would stand her ground and maybe Sanders too. As long as he did not say something like “The American people are sick and tired about hearing about your collusion charges.” Way too early to see who might be a front-runner but if they try for Michelle Obama, Trump would lay in about getting 4 more years for the Obama Presidency through the back door and that is not something that you can sell easily.

    1. Koldmilk

      The real question that should be asked is “Who on that list is most capable of going head to head with Trump”.

      I’m not sure if the Democratic establishment thinks that way: I suspect they would rather lose with the “right” candidate than win with the “wrong” one.

      1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

        Ding ding ding we have a winner. Michele would be perfect: she can go on Oprah, Hollywood billionaires can fawn over her, woke Clintonistas can claim her as their own, Big Money/Big Wall St/Big Pharma/Big Military can fling dollars at her knowing the fix is in, those screeching for “centrism”, “unity”, and “identity” can gush away. The campaign will be great fun, lots of consultants and galas and breathless CNN coverage. She’ll lose, of course…so as I said: perfect.

          1. The Rev Kev

            I’ve caught bits of that Ellen show on the TV the past year or two and from what I can see, she is as corporate as Rachel Maddow. Probably would not invite her then. She might get a gig on The View but it would be a hostile reception, especially from Whoopi Goldberg and Meghan McCain.

            1. skippy

              She is the epitome of what an old NC commentier downsouth described as a sell out to the early LGBT movement, when it monetized itself in the early 80s. Since ThirdWay all human rights are sorted via the market place and a groups pricing power and how that reflects on some C-corps equity price or balance sheet income flows.

              This flummoxes the right wing sorts in the evangelistic Rep party, because they foamed the runway to advance their ideological bent and take umbrage at having it usurped for non traditional application.

    2. Mattski

      This last point is well-taken. People STILL look on the Dems as the SQ, a testament to Trump’s hostility to practically everything. That will be a tall hill to climb for any establishment Dem candidate. The trick will be to find someone who looks a little like change without offering it.

      That poll is dubious, but the same basic curve is described by most of them, with its clear challenge for corporate Dems/the DNC: their candidates all subdivide their bulwark against Sanders.

      Warren is my own clear-cut second choice, but so far back in the pack–due to her support for U.S. militarism and foreign policy–that I tend to see her as more foe than friend, especially in the degree she threatens support for Sanders. (Insert identitarian issues here.)

      I’d start differing with Sanders on his first day in office, but there’s no one I see who’s close to the basic necessary changes he stands behind.

    3. PKMKII

      It’s also not addressing, where the candidates are popular. Now that we’re into campaign proper mode, what’s going to be the dominant factor here is who can win those four February 2020 primaries/caucuses: Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, South Carolina. You walk away with 3 out of 4 of those, or 2 out of 4 with a very strong showing in the order two, you get that frontrunner aura that, while not impossible to beat, gives you a lead hard for the rest to catch up to. If a candidate’s popularity is in states that don’t vote until late March or later, it doesn’t mean much.

    4. John k

      Whether she wants it, however reluctantly, or not, I can’t imagine her willing to face trump one on one.

      Dnc etc, certainly the supers, will want to say they are picking somebody that will do well against trump… but the latter will worry most about large numbers of dems staying home… dems did not carry the house with Hillary. Supers are the group dnc counts on to swing the nom towards a Corp friendly candidate, but in spite of being paid off, supers in not safe states and districts want to win re-election. Will Beto have coattails? Harris? Certainly Michelle won’t.
      If Biden enters but crashes nothing can stop Bernie except his health.

  4. johnnygl

    Michelle Obama seems like a great candidate to win primaries and lose the general election. I bet she’d win the popular vote by more than HRC and STILL lose the electoral college because of the midwest. Basically, she’d be perfect for team dem.

    Americans don’t like dynasties much, and i don’t think the obamas can pull the black vote much anymore.

    Besides, what’s she going to run on? School lunches?

  5. Louis Fyne

    Michelle would be insane (or a power-craven clinical psychopath) to run.

    All the money she needs, practical star-fame power, permanent A++-list status, no stress, limited press hounding and Secret Service chauffeuring when she’s with Barack.

    1. polecat

      You know who’s gonna go cray cray if by 2021 there are NO signs of substantive policy changes for the greater grunts … ?? The greater grunts ! We’re inching ever closer to our denouement — american style. And it won’t be pretty !

      1. John

        What’s that have to do with why it’s crazy for her to run?

        She’s Obama (and all his Republican policies), without the charisma.

    1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

      Some investigative journalist (is that still a thing?) might also look into the multiple Air Force One shoe shopping trips to Milan with her daughters at a cost to the taxpayer of $200,000 per hour.

      “…qu’íls mangent de la brioche!”

  6. Summer

    If only there was a way to get her on the side of Medicare for All. Damn, if only….
    Wouldn’t need her to run for office, just the support.

  7. WestcoastDeplorable

    This is just name recognition at work. Why would anyone vote for Moochell? Being first lady prepares one for the presidency how?

  8. Big River Bandido

    As others have said above, polls at this early date only measure simple name recognition. No doubt that if Michelle Obama announced a run, opinions would quickly be revised; Hillary Clinton only polled well when people thought she wasn’t running for anything. And as PKMKII wrote above, national polls are also meaningless when state contests happen one at a time. National polls are especially meaningless when the sample sizes are so low.

    But even state polls right now are particularly worthless, especially in caucus states where the pollster must really “know the territory”. To put it kindly, Monmouth and Emerson don’t know squat about Iowa politics. Ann Setzer’s poll for the Des Moines Register is the only source worth paying attention to in that state, and her prognostications won’t start to show any relevance until October or November at the earliest. Even as the caucus approaches, it’s hard to tell what may happen because the “consensus effect” of caucuses tends to distort the numerical results.

  9. ewmayer

    This sort of inane popularity-contest polling is the political analog of the kinds of cartoon-superhero-faceoff stuff we did as kids. I recall back in the 70s DC did a splashy oversized special collector’s edition, Superman vs Muhammad Ali – I was one of the hundreds of thousands of kids who eagerly bought a copy. (Shoulda held onto it because those are worth a nice chunk of change these days as collectors’ items). Does that premise sound ridiculous? Well, see, there’s this evil galactic master race of supervillains intent on conquering earth, see, and they give us a choice: If earth’s greatest champion beats theirs in – get this – a distinctly earth-style marquess-of-Queensberry-rules boxing match, the invasion is off and humanity can goes about its daily business of slowly destroying itself, thank you very much. So for da humanzz the obvious choice is Superman, but there’s a catch, see – the aliens’ champion is a one-ton hulking brute named Hun-Ya, who is a beast but has no Superman-style superpowers. So the aliens, having somehow learned of Superman’s history, insist the fight take place under a red sun, reducing Superman to a mere very-buff mortal. So Superman stays in superpowers mode to train for the fight under Muhammad Ali (somehow the question of “so if Superman can’t use his superpowers, wouldn’t it be better to just send an actual professional boxing champion?” never arises – but we’re getting there, don’t worry) because it allows him to learn to perfectly mimic Muhammad Ali, kinda like Neo in The Matrix where he just downloads the abilities of a Kung Fu master. So the fight happens, but things go sideways for Superman… anyway, I could explain the whole rest in a way that would make perfect sense, but just take my word for it and vote for Michelle, OK?

  10. Darthbobber

    I confidently expect this not to happen. If it did, her support would peak on day one, and proceed to drop steadily.

    I have trouble interesting myself overmuch in this sort of scenario spinning. For one thing, I think it really overestimates the ability of the party’s various power centers to run a particularly fine-tuned conspiracy.

    If the current plethora of candidates were the doing of puppetmasters it would be a mistake on their part, as a field that broken actually improves the chances for a candidate like Sanders, with a good campaign, to rack up largely delegate majorities from only a strong plurality of the vote, due to threshold requirements and formulas that deliver a significant bonus to the leader. (In most states, if the leading candidate were over 30%, and the also runs were packed in at 10-20, that 30+ would get the leader close to a majority.)

    One reason for the easy Trump victory on the Republican side was thinking inability of his opponents to coalesce until he already had a massive lead from picking up easy wins against a small army of rivals.

    And the superdelgates (particularly the officeholders) are highly unlikely to be a unified bloc that can be mustered in whatever maneuver is directed by the hypothesized Politburo. (at least one member of the Sanders campaign committee is a superdelegate himself.) If you’re a congressperson, exercising your superdelegate vote against someone who handily carried your district can bring it’s own risks.

    In any case, none of this endless looking over our own shoulders at what the various conspirators might do has much to do with the requirements of winning.

    Surely the objective is a strong enough campaign that all counterattacks fail.

    (An aside, this is one of many articles that seems to see Warren as functionally almost equivalent to Sanders. I have difficulty seeing it that way, and I’d welcome any insights as to what the basis for that is.)

    1. pretzelattack

      beto or bust!! bookermentum. i wonder what the odds are of a double b ticket. i strongly suspect i will refrain from voting democrat once again, but maybe i’m unduly cynical.

  11. Robert Hurley

    I thought I stumbled into a trump group here. Michelle is not going to run;; so why all the trump like nasty comments. I thought progressives were about fighting for policies.

    1. Svante Arrhenius

      Yeah, some signature Obama era policies are well worth fighting against (where affluent white liberals’ portfolios would benefit) while working folk, especially minorities had, in Bill Clinton’s adorable words, “nowhere else to go.” https://www.desmogblog.com/2019/03/05/health-risks-fracking-shale-industry-plastics-belt-ohio-river-valley


    2. pretzelattack

      we oppose neoliberal policies, whether pushed by a republican or a democrat. lot of democrats on board the current insanity in venezuela, in case you haven’t noticed, just as they were for iraq. i didn’t notice much if any republican opposition to invading libya, either.

    3. Yves Smith Post author

      We don’t do partisan. Pretty desperate to equate not worshipping at the shrine of Obama as having anything to do with Trump, particularly since we were critics of Obama long before Trump was running. As Matt Stoller likes to point out, Obama was a bad president.

      Daily Kos is over there.

    1. pretzelattack

      you aren’t supposed to read those kinds of tomes, you simply place them on your bookshelves or coffee table as decoration.

  12. duffolonious

    Is this a real concern, that she would run? I feel like this has low odds of doing _anything_ in politics (besides events, and off-hand comments at her book tours, maybe).

    I concern myself with this when it’s a reall problem.

  13. Publius

    Yves, What’s your take on Buttigieg? He’s impressively quick, but is he likely to be a sellout?

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Not keen about him at all. No good policy track record. Matt Stoller dislikes him more than any other Dem candidate (including Beto) and calls him “Empty Pete”.

  14. Epistrophy

    The Democrat heavyweights are sitting on the sidelines for the moment watching the landscape. My money says Michelle O will not run, no matter how much the left-wing pundits (misguidedly) wish it. National politicians today face destruction on two fronts; either being attacked by the great white sharks of the national media or being savaged by a piranha attack from the internet blogosphere and I think Michelle is too smart to step into this arena.

    Border protection was THE reason Trump was elected and it appears that this key issue is being elevated to even greater crisis levels (again).

    The open borders policy of the Democrats is the central problem for them. If they changed this policy I believe they would win the election. But it’s not going to happen.

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