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Michelle Obama: The Ultimate Joe Biden Replacement?

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Hillary Clinton tried and failed. Now it’s up to another presidential spouse to try and crack the glass ceiling. A new Reuters/Ipsos poll suggests that only one Democratic candidate would decisively trounce former president Donald J. Trump in November—Michelle Obama.

Hillary Clinton tried and failed. Now it’s up to another presidential spouse to try and crack the glass ceiling. A new Reuters/Ipsos poll suggests that only one Democratic candidate would decisively trounce former president Donald J. Trump in November—Michelle Obama.

Obama laps all of her potential competitors, including Kamala Harris, Gavin Newsom, and Gretchen Whitmer. 50 percent of voters said that they would vote for Obama while 39 percent indicated they prefer Trump. For Obama, who has viewed the Biden camp with suspicion and refused to campaign for it, claiming the nomination would represent a measure of revenge for its treatment of her friend Kathleen Buhle, the ex-wife of Hunter Biden. Barack Obama has attended fundraisers for Biden but never in the company of his wife who also shunned a state dinner for Kenya’s president William Ruto in May, the first for an African president in 16 years.

Democrats and a goodly number of independent voters clearly see Obama as a kind of Wonder Woman—a demi-goddess of wisdom and strength who could use a magic lasso the gerontocratic patriarchy surrounding Biden, reuniting the Democratic party. The Harvard historian Jill Lepore, in her book The Secret History of Wonder Woman, has argued that she forms a kind of missing link in the story of feminism over the past century. Perhaps a fresh Obama candidacy could play a similarly pivotal role for the current one, beleaguered as it is on a number of fronts, ranging from abortion to equal pay.

For her part, Obama has consistently indicated that she has no desire to run for the presidency. Indeed, she was clearly uneasy with her husband’s run in 2012, telling him that she would not support a second try if he failed. Obama is surely aware that the moment she stepped into the political ring her popularity would begin to diminish. Right now, she doesn’t have to take stands on issues such as Ukraine, taxes, regulation and so on. As long as she remains aloof, voters will project whatever aspirations they have onto her. Her very refusal to sully herself by running may heighten her popularity. Still, as Steve Benen has observed, the Obama phenomenon shouldn’t be dismissed as a complete sideshow. It does expose Biden’s weaknesses, underscoring that “there’s a broad political appetite for someone other than the former presidents.”

The Biden campaign’s happy talk is only amplifying unease with his run. The line seems to be that everything is A-OK. But Rep. Lloyd Doggett has called for Biden to exit the race, former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said that questions about his age are not illegitimate and Rep. James E. Clyburn, who almost singlehandedly saved Biden during the 2016 primary in South Carolina, indicated on MSNBC that he was ready to back Vice President Kamala Harris should she become the nominee. “I will support her if he were to step aside,” Clyburn stated. “This party should not in any way do anything to work around Miss Harris.”

Biden isn’t doing much to reassure voters. He joked to donors on Tuesday evening that he “almost fell asleep onstage” with Trump following his trips to Europe. It seems unlikely that Biden’s interview with George Stephanopoulos of ABC News will be enough to quell mounting doubts about his ability to run a vigorous campaign, let alone govern for the next four years. He has yet to give a news conference since the debate, one demonstrating that he can handle a welter of questions that he must answer spontaneously. Instead, he has succored his political wounds by retreating into his family circle with Hunter Biden as a valued adviser, not to mention the efforts of First Lady Jill Biden to urge him not to falter in his pursuit of a second term.

Speaking with Stephanopoulos on Wednesday, former Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley pointed to the need for generational change more generally in America: “We can’t have an 81-year-old president. We have to have a new generational leader. The Senate has become the most privileged nursing home in the country. We’ve got to start making sure we have a new generation. Everybody feels that- Republicans, Democrats and independents feel that…” So far, as Biden and Trump run for a second term, it isn’t happening