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
October 30, 2014 -- Updated 1539 GMT (2339 HKT)
Mike Downey says the Giants and the Royals both lived through long title droughts. What teams are waiting for a win?
October 30, 2014 -- Updated 1832 GMT (0232 HKT)
Mel Robbins says if a man wants to talk to a woman on the street, he should follow 3 basic rules.
October 29, 2014 -- Updated 2103 GMT (0503 HKT)
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say more terrorism plots are disrupted by families than by NSA surveillance.
October 29, 2014 -- Updated 2125 GMT (0525 HKT)
Time magazine has clearly kicked up a hornet's nest with its downright insulting cover headlined "Rotten Apples," says Donna Brazile.
October 29, 2014 -- Updated 2055 GMT (0455 HKT)
Leroy Chiao says the failure of the launch is painful but won't stop the trend toward commercializing space.
October 29, 2014 -- Updated 1145 GMT (1945 HKT)
Timothy Stanley: Though Jeb Bush has something to offer, another Bush-Clinton race would be a step backward.
October 28, 2014 -- Updated 1237 GMT (2037 HKT)
Errol Louis says forced to choose between narrow political advantage and the public good, the governors showed they are willing to take the easy way out over Ebola.
October 27, 2014 -- Updated 1803 GMT (0203 HKT)
Eric Liu says with our family and friends and neighbors, each one of us must decide what kind of civilization we expect in the United States. It's our responsibility to set tone and standards, with our laws and norms
October 27, 2014 -- Updated 1145 GMT (1945 HKT)
Sally Kohn says the UNC report highlights how some colleges exploit student athletes while offering little in return
October 26, 2014 -- Updated 1904 GMT (0304 HKT)
Terrorists don't represent Islam, but Muslims must step up efforts to counter some of the bigotry within the world of Islam, says Fareed Zakaria
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 1302 GMT (2102 HKT)
Scott Yates says extending Daylight Saving Time could save energy, reduce heart attacks and get you more sleep
October 27, 2014 -- Updated 0032 GMT (0832 HKT)
Reza Aslan says the interplay between beliefs and actions is a lot more complicated than critics of Islam portray
October 27, 2014 -- Updated 1119 GMT (1919 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says control of the Senate will be decided by a few close contests
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 1212 GMT (2012 HKT)
The response of some U.S. institutions that should know better to Ebola has been anything but inspiring, writes Idris Ayodeji Bello.
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 1312 GMT (2112 HKT)
Sigrid Fry-Revere says the National Organ Transplant Act has caused more Americans to die waiting for an organ than died in both World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq
ADVERTISEMENT