Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton arrives for a rally at the Grand Valley State University Fieldhouse November 7, 2016 in Allendale, Michigan. / AFP / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

If Not Michelle Obama, Then Who?

Here are the female frontrunners for the Democratic bid in the 2020 elections.
December 30, 2018
12 mins read

Since Donald Trump was elected to the highest office in the nation, the left-leaning public has been searching for a new candidate to replace the beloved Barack Obama in 2020. Obama was a charismatic leader that had an approval rating of 95 percent of Democrats at the end of his second term.

The diversity and freshness he brought to the White House as the first African-American president and as a relatively young commander in chief won him the respect of many. The former president was also known for his calm temperament that earned him nicknames such as “no drama Obama” and “no shock Barack.”

If anything, the election of Trump prompted the public to don their rose-colored glasses when looking back at the Obama presidency, and it’s now fondly remembered for the relative serenity surrounding it. As such, many Democrats have been clamoring for a new Obama to take the White House: former First Lady Michelle Obama.

Obama spent her years in the White House showing the public her grace, intelligence and humility. Her husband was not the only lawyer in the family — Michelle went to Princeton and Harvard Law school. After graduation, she worked at law firms, non-profits and at the University of Chicago before entering the White House.

During her time as First Lady, Obama raised awareness for poverty, obesity and education, among other topics. She also supported the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 that promoted women’s rights and was often seen visiting various government agencies to support her husband’s bills. Furthermore, Obama and her husband were given the Jerald Washington Memorial Founders’ Award, a prestigious honor given to homeless veteran advocates.

Michelle’s approval rating was often higher than her husband’s; she finished her time at the White House with 68 percent approval.

All of these accomplishments show that Obama did her best to use her time as first lady wisely. Her work and interest in politics, in addition to her new memoir, “Becoming,” have made her a mainstay for potential 2020 Democratic presidential candidates.

The question is, after seeing all of her work during the eight years of her husband’s presidency, can the world expect to see another Obama in the White House in 2020? In a recent poll, 20 percent of the public chose Michelle Obama as their favorite candidate for the 2020 presidential election, in front of Trump and Bernie Sanders at 19 and 14 percent, respectively.

Unfortunately, both Obamas have made it clear that Michelle will not seek the presidential nomination. Despite the former first lady’s work in politics during her husband’s time as president, she’s made it clear that she’s “never had the passion for politics.”

Obama has made several good points about why she wouldn’t run for president, arguing, “We just can’t find the women we like and ask them to do it, because there are millions of women who are inclined and do have the passion for politics.”

That doesn’t mean that Obama won’t be active during the 2020 elections. In the past, she’s been a prominent figure during the Democratic National Convention, and was an ardent supporter of Hillary Clinton in 2016. The public is likely to see her again, possibly campaigning for the women she spoke of who want to become political figures.

So, if you can’t vote #Obama2020, who is the most likely female candidate for Michelle Obama to support?

As of now, it seems the top competitors for the Democratic nomination include Clinton, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Sen. Kamala Harris and Sen. Elizabeth Warren. If the presidential election were tomorrow and Obama were to support a female candidate, she would likely back Klobuchar, Harris or Warren.

Here’s why.

Hillary Clinton

Clinton has already tried multiple times to run for president, and those failures have deteriorated her public image. Most young voters were not impressed by Clinton’s attempts to stay relevant during the 2016 election, and instead chose to back Sanders, even after he lost the Democratic nomination.

Should Clinton decide to join the running, which she currently claims will not happen, it seems pretty unlikely that she would win the nomination or that Obama would put support her again.

Amy Klobuchar

Klobuchar is often called the “pragmatic” and “polite” choice. The popular Minnesotan senator won 60 percent of the vote in her state this November against the Republican candidate. Klobuchar also impressed politicians and the public alike with her performance during the Brett Kavanaugh trial. However, many worry that she’s not fiery enough for the current Democratic base, while others argue that Klobuchar is exactly what the Democrats need to fight Trump. “I think people are exhausted [of the virulent, anti-Trump person],” former senior adviser David Axelrod claimed. “I think people want to believe that we can be better than that.”

Klobuchar has more appeal than Clinton, surely, but given the current fervor of the Democratic party it could be difficult for her to win the presidential nomination unless she receives strong backing, perhaps from Obama herself.

Kirsten Gillibrand

Gillibrand, the junior New York senator, is known for speaking out against controversial topics; for instance, she was the first senator to call for Al Franken, a fellow democratic senator, to step down after he was accused of sexual misconduct, and has also been a strong supporter of Sanders. Unlike some of the other candidates for the Democratic nominee, Gillibrand is almost certainly progressive enough for the Democratic electorate, and consistently votes against Trump measures.

Unfortunately for Gillibrand, she’s received quite a bit of backlash after pushing Franken to resign. Critics have accused her of simply taking advantage of a political moment, rather than actually caring about the #MeToo movement. Gillibrand has not polled as well as some of her contemporaries, meaning that she is likely to be out of the running early on, and, as such, unlikely to receive support from Obama.

Kamala Harris

Harris is relatively new to the political scene; she’s only been the junior senator for California since 2017. Before that, however, she served as California’s attorney general for six years, so she is not completely devoid of political expertise.

Harris has a few things going for her. She’s one of very few candidates who are of color, she is fairly young and, among other positions, she is an avid advocate of criminal justice reform, something that Democrats have failed to push for in the past.

However, around 53 percent of voters don’t know Harris. If she wants to make a real bid for the candidacy, which she has claimed she’ll announce after the holidays, Harris will need to make more of a name for herself. She began to do that with the Kavanaugh hearing. She’s performed well in recent polls from CNN and She the People, but an endorsement from Obama, another woman of color, would be very beneficial for Harris.

Elizabeth Warren

Warren, a Massachusetts senator, has consistently been in the news for battling Trump and championing progressive values. She’s one of the first candidates to make it clear that she will be running for president in 2020, and has said, “It’s time for women to go to Washington and fix our broken government, and that includes a woman at the top.”

Warren is one of the more progressive presidential candidates, so she would certainly be palatable to the more polarized Democratic electorate, but she might be too liberal for the country as a whole. She supports Sanders’ universal healthcare plan, which has always been a divisive issue in this country, and strongly opposes much of Trump’s agenda, especially on immigration. She also made what many describe as a political blunder by releasing her DNA test to prove her distant Native American ancestry. Plus, Warren will be 71 years old during the 2020 election, and some have argued that Democrats will need a younger nominee to win in 2020.

But, Warren has proven her loyalty fighting Trump measures, and she is widely regarded as one of the favorite female candidates for the presidential nomination, so she could receive the seal of approval from Obama.

All in all, although the lack of a Michelle Obama candidacy might disappoint some, there are plenty of other worthy female candidates, as Obama herself pointed out.

And, of course, there are also plenty of male candidates that are gaining popularity in the fight for the Democratic presidential nomination, especially former vice president Joe Biden and Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who could also receive support from Obama.

As per usual when considering the fairly far-off 2020 election, all that’s left to do is wait until more candidates declare their official campaigns and see who the two final contenders are for the November election.

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