Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

Michelle Obama for Senate?

By Sally Kohn
June 7, 2014 -- Updated 0047 GMT (0847 HKT)
First lady Michelle Obama celebrates her 50th birthday on Friday, January 17. Click through the gallery to see photos from her life. First lady Michelle Obama celebrates her 50th birthday on Friday, January 17. Click through the gallery to see photos from her life.
HIDE CAPTION
Michelle Obama turns 50
Michelle Obama turns 50
Michelle Obama turns 50
Michelle Obama turns 50
Michelle Obama turns 50
Michelle Obama turns 50
Michelle Obama turns 50
Michelle Obama turns 50
Michelle Obama turns 50
Michelle Obama turns 50
Michelle Obama turns 50
Michelle Obama turns 50
Michelle Obama turns 50
Michelle Obama turns 50
Michelle Obama turns 50
Michelle Obama turns 50
Michelle Obama turns 50
Michelle Obama turns 50
Michelle Obama turns 50
Michelle Obama turns 50
Michelle Obama turns 50
Michelle Obama turns 50
Michelle Obama turns 50
Michelle Obama turns 50
Michelle Obama turns 50
Michelle Obama turns 50
Michelle Obama turns 50
Michelle Obama turns 50
Michelle Obama turns 50
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Sally Kohn: Article notes Michelle Obama's recent higher profile. Does it presage Senate run?
  • Why not? she says. Before becoming first lady, she was accomplished attorney
  • Kohn says she's been effective advocate on nutrition, military families; her approval rating high
  • Kohn: She'd be a formidable candidate, and America seems to like to see her in public eye

Editor's note: Sally Kohn is a progressive activist, columnist and television commentator. Follow her on Twitter @sallykohn. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN) -- It's not surprising there's speculation that Michelle Obama might run for the United States Senate — although one should note that at this point, that's all it is: speculation — made mainly in a Reuters article written by Keith Koffler, editor of the website White House Dossier.

The fact is, however, Michelle Obama is a highly effective and popular public figure and would make a gifted elected leader.

Sally Kohn
Sally Kohn

We should remember that before Barack Obama's presidency, Michelle Obama was perhaps even more of a superstar than her husband. An accomplished attorney, she was an assistant to the mayor of Chicago in the early 1990s, as well as an assistant commissioner of planning and development for the city.

After running the Chicago branch of the nonprofit Public Allies, which gets young people engaged in nonprofit and government leadership, Obama moved to the University of Chicago, eventually rising to be vice president of the university's extensive hospitals network.

In our unequal country where so many people are vastly and unfairly underpaid, income certainly isn't an accurate measure of talent. But it certainly is often a good measure of power. In 2006, Sen. Barack Obama reported a salary of $157,082. The same year, Michelle Obama's salary was $273,618.

As first lady, Michelle Obama has managed to be both iconic and accessible, a hard-to-achieve but quintessential balancing act for the greatest of political leaders. She has taken on the important issues of child nutrition and obesity, as well as the challenges facing our nation's military families. And on both issues, her unflagging leadership and unimpeachable achievements have been clear.

Will Michelle Obama run for office?
Michelle Obama's food fight
First Lady: Our kids deserve better
First Lady: Some schools 'aren't equal'

But no doubt the speculation about Obama's next steps is partly related to this: Voters who enthusiastically supported her husband's campaign have been disillusioned by the messiness of governance, largely due to the unprecedented hostility of the Republican Party, but certainly made worse by President Obama's inability to outmaneuver his opponents either in rhetoric or in legislation.

All that hope and change can fizzle in the face of reality, but Michelle Obama still seems full of the same optimism that once drove voters to the polls. Moreover, those of us who often long to see President Obama be more confrontational, or even angry and aggressive, sometimes see more of that raw fighting spirit in his wife. Should she someday choose to run for office, Michelle Obama may prove an even more gifted politician than her husband, especially when it comes to dodging the incoming attacks and getting things done.

All the buzzing around Hillary Clinton's potential presidential run can't help but encourage the speculation about Michelle Obama, the prospect of another first lady running for the Senate and maybe, someday, a higher office. It's worth noting that Michelle Obama's approval ratings are higher than Hillary Clinton's were when she was first lady. Michelle Obama's approval ratings are also higher than her husband's.

The political stars might certainly be aligned: Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois is a Republican in the Obamas' Democratic home state and would be up for re-election in November 2016, just as the Obama White House would be drawing to an end.

Should Michelle Obama choose to run, she would be a formidable candidate in every way, from public speaking to fundraising to policy to media and more. But either way, just the fact that anyone is speculating sends a flattering signal to a beloved first lady who America would clearly like to keep in the public eye.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook.com/CNNOpinion.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
December 13, 2014 -- Updated 2108 GMT (0508 HKT)
The NFL's new Player Conduct Policy was a missed chance to get serious about domestic violence, says Mel Robbins.
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 1740 GMT (0140 HKT)
The slaughter of more than 130 children by the Pakistani Taliban may prove as pivotal to Pakistan's security policy as the 9/11 attacks were for the U.S., says Peter Bergen.
December 17, 2014 -- Updated 1600 GMT (0000 HKT)
The Internet is an online extension of our own neighborhoods. It's time for us to take their protection just as seriously, says Arun Vishwanath.
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 2154 GMT (0554 HKT)
Gayle Lemmon says we must speak out for the right of children to education -- and peace
December 17, 2014 -- Updated 1023 GMT (1823 HKT)
Russia's economic woes just seem to be getting worse. How will President Vladimir Putin respond? Frida Ghitis gives her take.
December 17, 2014 -- Updated 0639 GMT (1439 HKT)
Australia has generally seen itself as detached from the threat of terrorism. The hostage incident this week may change that, writes Max Barry.
December 12, 2014 -- Updated 2020 GMT (0420 HKT)
Thomas Maier says the trove of letters the Kennedy family has tried to guard from public view gives insight into the Kennedy legacy and the history of era.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 1456 GMT (2256 HKT)
Will Congress reform the CIA? It's probably best not to expect much from Washington. This is not the 1970s, and the chances for substantive reform are not good.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 2101 GMT (0501 HKT)
From superstorms to droughts, not a week goes by without a major disruption somewhere in the U.S. But with the right planning, natural disasters don't have to be devastating.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 1453 GMT (2253 HKT)
Would you rather be sexy or smart? Carol Costello says she hates this dumb question.
December 14, 2014 -- Updated 2253 GMT (0653 HKT)
A story about Pope Francis allegedly saying animals can go to heaven went viral late last week. The problem is that it wasn't true. Heidi Schlumpf looks at the discussion.
December 14, 2014 -- Updated 1550 GMT (2350 HKT)
Democratic leaders should wake up to the reality that the party's path to electoral power runs through the streets, where part of the party's base has been marching for months, says Errol Louis
December 13, 2014 -- Updated 2123 GMT (0523 HKT)
David Gergen: John Brennan deserves a national salute for his efforts to put the report about the CIA in perspective
December 12, 2014 -- Updated 1426 GMT (2226 HKT)
Anwar Sanders says that in some ways, cops and protesters are on the same side
December 11, 2014 -- Updated 1439 GMT (2239 HKT)
A view by Samir Naji, a Yemeni who was accused of serving in Osama bin Laden's security detail and imprisoned for nearly 13 years without charge in Guantanamo Bay
December 14, 2014 -- Updated 1738 GMT (0138 HKT)
S.E. Cupp asks: How much reality do you really want in your escapist TV fare?
December 11, 2014 -- Updated 1828 GMT (0228 HKT)
Rip Rapson says the city's 'Grand Bargain' saved pensions and a world class art collection by pulling varied stakeholders together, setting civic priorities and thinking outside the box
December 13, 2014 -- Updated 2310 GMT (0710 HKT)
Glenn Schwartz says the airing of the company's embarrassing emails might wake us up to the usefulness of talking in-person instead of electronically
December 12, 2014 -- Updated 2233 GMT (0633 HKT)
The computer glitch that disrupted air traffic over the U.K. on Friday was a nuisance, but not dangerous, says Les Abend
December 12, 2014 -- Updated 1740 GMT (0140 HKT)
Newt Gingrich says the CBO didn't provide an accurate picture of Obamacare's impact, so why rehire its boss?
December 13, 2014 -- Updated 0040 GMT (0840 HKT)
Russian aggression has made it clear Ukraine must rethink its security plans, says Olexander Motsyk, Ukrainian ambassador to the U.S.
December 12, 2014 -- Updated 0046 GMT (0846 HKT)
The Senate committee report on torture has highlighted partisan divisions on CIA methods, says Will Marshall. Republicans and Democrats are to blame.
December 11, 2014 -- Updated 1833 GMT (0233 HKT)
It would be dishonest to say that 2014 has been a good year for women. But that hasn't stopped some standing out, says Frida Ghitis.
ADVERTISEMENT