On Monday night, in an interview with Pittsburgh’s premier political pundit, Joe Biden made a little news about his vice presidential search.
“I’d take her in a heartbeat,” Biden told Jon Delano of former first lady Michelle Obama. “She’s brilliant. She knows the way around. She is a really fine woman. The Obamas are great friends.”
Now, the truth of the matter is that Biden saying he would love to have Michelle Obama as his running mate is akin to me saying that I would pick Steph Curry if I was drafting a pickup basketball team. It’s kind of a no-brainer.
Biden has pledged that he will pick a woman as his VP — and the former first lady is, well, among the most popular women (and people) among Democrats and independents in the country. Michelle Obama was the most admired woman in America in 2018 and 2019, according to Gallup. Her memoir — “Becoming” — sold more than 10 million(!) copies. She founded a non-partisan group aimed at increasing voter registration that made news last week when she endorsed Democratic legislation aimed at early voting and vote-by-mail in the midst of the coronavirus crisis.
In short: There is no single person in America Biden could pick as his VP that would increase his chances of victory more than Michelle Obama. Period.
The real question when it comes to Michelle Obama is not whether she would help Biden, then, but whether she would actually be willing to be chosen for the VP slot. And all signs, still, suggest the answer to that question is a resounding “no.”
In “Becoming,” Obama put it bluntly: “I’ll say it here directly: I have no intention of running for office, ever.” Last year, in an interview with Conan O’Brien for his podcast, Obama again ruled out the possibility of running for president (or any other office) — explaining that her time in the White House had made it impossible for her to ever be anonymous and live a “normal” life. She added:
“And so I don’t know as much as I would want to, to be in a position of leadership, to kind of know what are you feeling? Because you can’t experience life behind a tinted window in a car.
“So we sacrificed that, and that’s not a complaint, but if I’m going to be a leader I’ve got to be in there. I’ve got to be able to be in there overhearing people’s truths, and really being able to see their pain without it being filtered through the veil of me.”
Those close to the Obamas are similarly skeptical that elected office will ever be in the former first lady’s future.
“I think I have as much of a chance of dancing in the Bolshoi Ballet in 2020 as the likelihood of her running for office,” former Obama chief strategist David Axelrod told Politico about Michelle Obama in 2018. Around that same time, longtime Obama friend/adviser Valerie Jarrett told CNN’s Alisyn Camerota: “Let me very clear. It will never happen. She has committed her life to public service. And she’s going to use her incredible platform to be a force for good, but not in politics.”
Heck, Biden admitted as much on Monday night — even as he was saying he would love to have Michelle Obama on the ticket! “I don’t think she has any desire to live near the White House again,” Biden told Delano.
Now. This is politics. So, when people say they aren’t interested in running for an office, there’s always some reason to a little skeptical. After all, Barack Obama flatly denied any interest in running for president in 2008 — and we know how that one turned out.
But here’s the difference: Barack Obama was already actively in politics. He has been in the state House. He had run for Congress. He had been elected to the US Senate. He was — and is — a politician. Michelle Obama has never chosen to run for anything. She’s never been a politician. So when she says she isn’t interested in being one, you should probably trust her.
With all of that said, it’s impossible to totally rule out the possibility of Michelle Obama agreeing to be the vice presidential nominee. Why? Because if Biden asked her and told her that if she said “yes” they would have a greatly increased chance of ending Trump’s time as president, it is theoretically possible that she might be swayed by that argument.
While neither Obama has said much publicly critical of Trump, Michelle Obama did tell CBS’ Gayle King in 2019 that “what saddens me is what it’s doing to the country as a whole. What we have to be really conscientious of is what kind of country we’re leaving for our children or grandchildren.”
Do I think an appeal to patriotism and doing right by the country might sway Michelle Obama to reconsider her long-held refusal to even consider running for office? It’s technically possible. But the odds are about as long as me and Axelrod being asked to dance for the Bolshoi Ballet.