Obama appeared on Leno Wednesday night.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - His chief rival for the Democratic nomination has a famous husband, but White House hopeful Barack Obama said Wednesday night his wife Michelle could go head-to-head with former President Bill Clinton.
"My wife, is no slouch, you see - if there's a debate between Michelle and Bill, you know, I'm putting my money on my girl," he said on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno.
The Illinois Democrat also laughed off Leno's suggestion that he might want to reconsider leaving his wife alone with the former president.
"Michelle can handle herself," he quipped. "She doesn't play."
Obama also said Bill Clinton's popularity in Democratic circles plays a significant role in wife Hillary's large lead in the Democratic field. The latest CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll registered Clinton at 51 percent nationally, compared to Obama’s 21 percent.
"Particularly among democrats, Bill Clinton is very popular," Obama said. "He's a great strategist. He's very smart when it comes to the politics of the Democratic Party."
"And, you know, there are a lot of chips out," he added. "People - you develop a lot of relationships when you're president. So that's part of the challenge that we have to face is making sure that people know me as well as they know her and as well as they know Bill."
But Obama sharply brushed aside suggestions Clinton was unbeatable and said the New York Democrat's early coronation as the party's nominee reminded him of President Bush's now infamous appearance on the USS Abraham Lincoln.
"Hillary is not the first politician in Washington to declare 'Mission Accomplished’ a little too soon," he said to laughter and cheers. "So we've got a long way to go before the first vote is cast."
- CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney