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Will Michelle Obama run for president? All signs point to no

Former first lady Michelle Obama speaks May 11, 2019, in Atlanta.  (AP) Former first lady Michelle Obama speaks May 11, 2019, in Atlanta.  (AP)

Former first lady Michelle Obama speaks May 11, 2019, in Atlanta. (AP)

Kwasi Gyamfi Asiedu
By Kwasi Gyamfi Asiedu February 20, 2024

If Your Time is short

  • Current and former politicians and pundits have pushed the theory that Michelle Obama will replace Joe Biden as the 2024 Democratic nominee. None have cited evidence.

  • For more than a decade and as recently as 2023, Michelle Obama has denied any intention to run for president.

  • No spin, just facts you can trust. Here's how we do it.

Could Michelle Obama be making a comeback to the White House — this time as president?

For years, conservative media has peddled the notion that the former first lady has presidential ambitions. As recent concerns about President Joe Biden’s age and fitness for office have grown and the November election nears, the rumor mill is back in action. 

The theory suggests Biden will drop out or be forced out of the race and Michelle Obama will replace him as the Democratic Party’s 2024 presidential nominee. The claims have gained prominence as pundits, leading politicians and podcast hosts amplify them.

The theory has roots in conspiracy theories about the Deep State. On Feb. 9, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick posted on X, "I’ve said for over a year many times that Joe Biden would not be on the ticket and Michelle Obama would be the likely nominee. It’s clear the Democrat deep state run by Barack Obama knew they had to take him down to give them a chance in November."

Patrick posted the comments a day after Special Counsel Robert Hur released a report about Biden’s handling of classified documents and portrayed Biden as having a faulty memory, a potentially politically damaging characterization in a reelection year.

Conservative activist Benny Johnson also described the Obama theory during a Jan. 9 episode of his show with guest Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga.

"There is a trend going around, a lot of whispers, that Joe Biden is there to survive through the primary season," Johnson said. "So, there is no primary for the Democrats and nobody has a chance to run against Michelle Obama and nobody has a chance to actually run against whoever they have chosen. Then, then, you do the switcheroo in the spring." 

Greene responded, "I think it is very possible." She also called Biden’s presidency "(Barack) Obama’s third term" and said of the former first lady: "She owns Joe Biden’s policies. She owns the Biden administration. She owns the failure. She owns the Green New Deal. She owns the inflation. She owns the wide-open border."

PolitiFact contacted Michelle Obama’s office. Her spokesperson declined to comment and referred us to recent news articles that show Michelle Obama dispelling the theory.

Since 2012, Michelle Obama has repeatedly denied rumors that she will run for the presidency.  No publicly available information supports the claim that she will run for president.

Keneshia Grant, a Howard University associate political science professor, said Michelle Obama might be a target of this speculation because of partisan political panic.

"It might be that people who have this worry would like for Trump to win, and they are trying to think about maybe the one person who might be able to beat Donald Trump," she said, "and they think that this is the one person who could do it."

Public figures amplify the claim

Greene and Texas’ Patrick were the most recent in a line of current and former politicians and political candidates making similar comments:

  • Last September, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speculated, "In August of 2024, the Democrat kingmakers (will) jettison Joe Biden and parachute in Michelle Obama."

  • Sarah Palin, former Republican vice presidential nominee and former Alaska governor, wrote on X last September, "Don’t be surprised. But I still say it’ll be Michelle O’ #2024Election. Biden’s out."

  • Speaking on Fox News this month after the release of Hur’s report, former Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy said, "I do think what they are planning for is to sideline Biden as the nominee, trod in a different puppet. Which is what leads me to the likely conclusion that it is going to be someone like Michelle Obama."

No one making the claim has presented any evidence to support it. And Biden has rebutted notions that he’s unable to continue in the job.

Some social media claims go even further, invoking the longstanding, racially charged conspiracy theory that Michelle Obama is a man and would be the first transgender nominee or president. 

When Barack Obama posted Feb. 14 on X wishing Michelle a happy Valentine’s Day, one person responded, "Raise your hand if you think Michelle should run for president!" with a meme that said "Michelle Obama ‘24." In response to the meme, another person wrote, "Oh, I think its fantastic idea. First fully (diversity, equity and inclusion) president. Black, gay AND trans!!" 

Michelle Obama has long denied a desire to run for president

When a student asked in 2012 whether Michelle Obama would consider running for president, she said "absolutely not."

"One of the things you learn about yourself as you get older are what are your strengths and what are your interests, and for me, it’s other stuff, that is not being the president," Obama said.

In 2016, as speculation grew again, then-President Barack Obama dismissed the notion that  his wife would take over the White House. "Let me tell you, there are three things that are certain in life. Death, taxes, and Michelle is not running for president."

In 2017, Michelle Obama dismissed the speculation: "I wouldn't ask my children to do this again, because when you run for higher office, it's not just you. It's your whole family."

In 2022, when asked in a BBC interview whether there is any question she detests, Obama said there was. It’s, "Are you going to run for president?"

"No I am not," she said.

In 2023, she told Oprah Winfrey (who has also repeatedly denied rumors about running for president), "I have never expressed any interest in politics. Ever."

As the recent rumors surfaced, David Alexrod, a close friend of the Obamas, told CNN, "She is not someone who likes politics … I have as much chance of dancing in the Bolshoi Ballet next year."

As first lady, Michelle Obama was highly visible to voters but sat outside the divisive partisan environment. This afforded her a unique national name recognition and popularity among voters.

"That she is not a politician is exactly why she is popular," Howard University’s Grant said. "She is a person who we know, a person who we trust but a person who doesn't have the baggage of previous political statements or political decisions."

In a January interview with podcast host Jay Shetty, Obama said she was "terrified" about the upcoming 2024 election and what it could mean for democracy as Donald Trump appears to be closing in on the GOP nomination. But Obama did not say she was motivated to run for office.

The unlikely road for Michelle Obama to become the 2024 Democratic nominee

Even if Michelle Obama were to express interest in the presidency, many other logistical things would have to fall into place for her candidacy to become a reality — such as the Democratic ticket having a vacancy.

If there is a vacancy prior to the August Democratic convention in Chicago, the delegates Biden has amassed during the primaries could decide to give their votes to a candidate whose political philosophy is similar to Biden’s. For that candidate to be Michelle Obama, that would mean she would have to declare an interest in being chosen. Rep. Dean Phillips of Minnesota, Biden’s remaining Democratic challenger, could make a pitch to delegates to back him instead.

If the vacancy occurs between the convention and election day, the Democratic National Committee has the power to name a presidential nominee — likely (but not mandated) to be Biden’s running mate Kamala Harris. The chairperson of the DNC, Jaime Harrison, was selected for the job by Biden. If Harris were elevated to the presidential slot, the DNC would also name a vice presidential nominee.

Senior Correspondent Louis Jacobson and Staff Writer Marta Campabadal Graus contributed to this story.

RELATED: What happens if Joe Biden or Donald Trump leaves his party’s ticket? ​

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Our Sources

CNN, Michelle Obama is trending and you won't believe why, Feb. 10, 2024

Politico, The Republican fantasy that Democrats will replace Joe Biden, Feb. 9, 2024

PolitiFact, The Democratic Party didn’t name Michelle Obama its 2024 nominee, May 9, 2023

CNN, A timeline of Michelle Obama saying she’ll never run for office, Jul. 26, 2016

MarketWatch, Betting markets put Biden's chance of re-election at lowest level in a year,  Feb. 13, 2024

BBC News, Michelle Obama: 'I won't run for office' for my children, Apr. 28, 2017

YouTube, Michelle Obama opens up on her eight years in the White House: "We know too much." Jan. 8, 2024 

Politico, Oprah: ‘I don’t want to run’ for president, Nov. 1, 2018

Rolling Stone, Michelle Obama Tells Oprah She’ll Never, Ever Run for President, Apr. 25, 2023

BBC News, Michelle Obama's quick-fire questions round, Nov. 14, 2022

CNN, Jaime Harrison officially elected Democratic National Committee chair, Jan. 21, 2021

Time Magazine, Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton Hit the Road Together, Oct. 27, 2016

YouTube, Joe Biden - Michelle Obama: "Vote like your life depends on it", Oct. 19, 2020

Fox News, Dems one step closer to replacing Biden with Michelle Obama after damning report, Ramaswamy says, Feb. 10, 2024

Associated Press, Obama says Michelle Obama will not run for president, Jan. 14, 2016

PolitiFact, PolitiFact’s 15 most popular social media fact-checks from 2023, Dec. 21, 2023Sky News Australia, Megyn Kelly weighs in on speculation Michelle Obama could replace Joe Biden in 2024, Jan. 24, 2024

Instagram, Megyn Kelly Show (archived link), Jan. 23, 2024

X, Roger Stone (archived link), Feb. 12, 2024

X, Barack Obama (archived link), Feb. 14, 2024

X, Thinking Ape (archived link), Feb. 14, 2024

X, The Patriot Oasis (archived link), Feb. 9, 2024

X, Benny Johnson Show (archived link), Jan. 9, 2024

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Will Michelle Obama run for president? All signs point to no