December 29th, 2007
08:00 AM ET
10 years ago

Obama: My wife says 'now or never'


Obama and wife Michelle at a recent campaign event (Photo Credit: AP)

WILLIAMSBURG, Iowa (CNN) - Barack Obama told an Iowa audience Friday that his wife Michelle thinks he should not run for president again if he loses in 2008.

“One of the things I offer in this race is that we still remember what it means to be normal," said the Illinois senator.

"My wife and I were talking the other day. And she said 'We're not doing this again'. And those of you who met her know she doesn't mince words,” said Obama. “She meant that in eight years, I'm not sure we'll be the same people we are now."

He said that he and his wife had only recently finished paying off their own student loans and started saving for their kids' college education. He also said that, until recently, he would do the family's grocery shopping himself. He said Michele told him, "eight years from now we will have lost touch with what ordinary Americans are going through" and that "we'll be in a different orbit."

"I think when you're in Washington for a long time you lose touch" and "it becomes harder to relinquish power,” he added.

But he told the audience in this blue-collar town, "my wife still shops at Target."

In the new issue of Vanity Fair, Michelle Obama tells a reporter that when it comes to her husband's White House bid, “it’s now or never.”

“We’re not going to keep running and running and running, because at some point you do get the life beaten out of you. It hasn’t been beaten out of us yet," she tells the magazine. "We need to be in there now, while we’re still fresh and open and fearless and bold. You lose some of that over time. Barack is not cautious yet; he’s ready to change the world, and we need that.”

Obama was responding to question from an undecided voter on executive power, and whether the senator would be willing to relinquish some of the power that President Bush has accrued.

Approached after the event, the undecided voter who asked the question said he hopes if Obama loses this time that he does run again: "I think he could make a good President," said Paul Kessler. But he told CNN that he's still uncommitted: "I'm going to read every candidates' website and decide on policy. Not emotion."

UPDATE: Later in an interview with CNN, Obama wouldn't say if his comments suggested he would not run for president again if he were to lose his current bid.

"Well, I intend to reelection after my first term," he said with a smile.

–CNN's Jessica Yellin

Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama
soundoff (420 Responses)
  1. Jim Bremer

    Michelle is too ghetto to be First Lady – sorry but she insists on making it obvious

    December 28, 2007 11:48 pm at 11:48 pm |
  2. SEC

    Attention Stephen, Barack did not get sworn in with the Koran. Are you a Hillary operative or something? Or are you Bob Kerrey in drag? Regardless, I respect Senator Obama's decision to say that he won't run again. It obviously takes a toll on a family running for President, but I do think this is his year. Come on America, do you really want to have First Husbandgate?

    December 28, 2007 11:54 pm at 11:54 pm |
  3. Andrew

    All i see here is: Whipped.

    December 28, 2007 11:57 pm at 11:57 pm |
  4. John William

    I remember "a recently elected senator" laying out a conceptual agenda for his first term as a senator (a little over a year ago) during an interview (meet the press). He claimed then that he would not seek the presidential office and that his focus was on representing his state(IL). He even acknowledged that the Senate would be a substantial change from policy making in a " local/state level". Fast forward-> a year later he is now "ready to change the establishment." Although I believe he has tremendous potential, he clearly is not ready to be any sort of "catalyst for change". The point here is that this notion of "now or never" is unwarranted: I see him as much a politician as those who have preceded him and the many more who will someday surface after this campaign cycle. Further, its conventional knowledge that name recognition (raising your political file) is part of a long term strategy to position yourself for a future run (especially when you are not expected to win). Hence, expect him to run again (ex. Edwards). Fortunately, this current run will provide him with an opportunity to develop an 'actual' national track record. That would alleviate a heavy reliance on former "Clinton" advisers to get him up to speed on foreign and domestic policy. Finally, "what does this say about his commitment to changing Washington?" "Will Obama seek a second term as IL senator?" As far as I know, it takes real commitment/work at a federal level to make these changes he poses. And, the notion that he will not run in the future brings into question the platform he is running on "TODAY"............

    December 28, 2007 11:59 pm at 11:59 pm |
  5. Tisha

    AMERICAN ARE SO STUPID!!! Most of these comments are coming straight off of the Clinton handbook! You all don't think Obama is experienced because Hillary and Bill told you what to think. How in the WORLD is Hillary more experienced then Barak? Both are just Senators and unlike any other person Barak took his legal knowledge and went back into the community and fought for the rights of the middle class and poor WITH them. How in the world can you relate to the common man if you have never been there with them. Hillary is the establishment she does not care about anyone she is only interested in winning and proving something to the republicans that hate her.
    I am tired of the fight between the GOP evangelicals and the Clintons, there are too many problems in the world for us (the people) to get caught up in that mess. But see we let comments like the one Barak made get us all fired up instead of looking at the fact that he has the passion and intelligence to make changes.
    I am starting to get scared because I thought that America was smart enough not to let another trifling do nothing Republican into the White House but after hearing these comments, I was wrong!

    December 28, 2007 11:59 pm at 11:59 pm |
  6. oscarwms

    I don't think the world is ready for an Obama presidentcy. I think he should run as Clintons vice presedent. Then when they get use to seeing him in the White House he will be ready to run and win. Or maybe Clinton should be his running mate. Ho Hum!

    December 29, 2007 12:01 am at 12:01 am |
  7. Kevin H

    Obama for life coach! But not President!

    December 29, 2007 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
  8. John Halverson

    Really? he won't run again? all politicians are the same. Didn't Hillary say repeatedly that she wouldn't run for the White House and that the Senate was as far as she would go? well now she is running for President. Now Barack says he won't run again? that is unless he doesn't get he nomination. If he doesn't we'll hear from him again and again and again. Politicians NEVER mean what they say, they only like to hear themselves speak!

    December 29, 2007 12:06 am at 12:06 am |
  9. CRD, Texas

    If you read Obama's book "The Audacity of Hope" you will "hear" through his own words, not an editor or biographer, what HE thinks about issues and how he approaches decisions. You will be able to get a feel for the person without the filters of the media – nothing out of context, nothing skewed with a purpose (as I am SURE most of the comments that seem to be causing so much trouble are). Our country needs CHANGE. A change in how we think, a change in how we interact in the world. Our country needs to be the team captain of the world, not the gold medal winner leaving everyone else in the dust. Obama wants to change how things are run. He wants to find solutions and compromises so EVERYONE can have some of what they need and/or want. The fact that he is committed to this run for president and then will accept that the country doesn't want his approach is admirable. He is not running out of ambition – he is running out of HOPE that he can change the country and the world. That is NOT cowardly or weak – that is brave and visionary. That he is on a team with his wife with regards to their family is even more admirable in my mind – the most successful and happy marriages I know are people that view themselves as a team. Obama IS the man of the time. He stands for the change that we all want. A return to the citizen politician that wins because he values his family, is honest, and is smart enough to take in all the information and then make INTELLIGENT decisions.


    December 29, 2007 12:07 am at 12:07 am |
  10. Dawn H.

    As Americans, we are better then the negativety spewing form our mouths, as we ourselves, try to convience other voters that our opinions are correct. We have no respect for each other and it shows through choice in conversations. What happened to our values and talking positivily about who we believe in? Michelle believes Obama is the President for 2008 not 2016. That is what she said; your interpretation to it, is your own. They are not asking for your opinion but a wife giving hers.

    December 29, 2007 12:10 am at 12:10 am |
  11. Hope

    How idiotic of the people who comment that he's not ready for prime time or that he's got to go through the machine in order to be a valid candidate. The machine is what changes people into cold politicians who have nothing to offer society except more of the same. What is this experience that you speak of? Back stabbing? Manipulation of voting blocks?

    When did it become detrimental to have experience being a citizen of the United States? Maybe some of you watch too much of the political analysts and require the translation. Maybe you don't want a leader, maybe you want a clone. Clones are what we've been given for decades. Wake up and smell the hope for humanity's sake.

    December 29, 2007 12:22 am at 12:22 am |
  12. Carol, New York, New York

    She speaks the truth here. Unlike Hillary who is just grabbing for power, Obama wants to be what everyone wants someone in politics to be. Someone who actually is working in the best interest of the people. He can offer us EXACTLY what he is telling us: a very smart, capable president who can bring about change to a system and a country which we can all agree is in dire need of changing.

    In 8 years he cant offer that. We have one great shot here, its a risk, but all big success are. America took a chance on funny looking country lawyer, and on a young catholic man, but both turned out to be great presidents. Now its time to take a chance on a young bi racial man with fresh ideas for a better country.

    If you want to know what Hillary's term could be like, just go home, and pull out some dusty VHS tapes with news clips from the past 20 years of impeachments, political infighting, failed universal health care plans, of a polarized nation, and broken foreign relations. If you want whats safe, but no better, go vote for her. But if you want to take a chance on something new, with the real prospect of a better America, vote for Barack Obama.

    Obama 08'!

    December 29, 2007 12:30 am at 12:30 am |
  13. FV

    In 8 years, when you STILL won't have as much experience and expertise as Hillary Clinton does now, but might be coming close.....
    You Wont run?
    Hmmm.... Yeah, THAT sound's like good judgement....NOT!
    Well then, thank you GOOD BYE!

    December 29, 2007 12:35 am at 12:35 am |
  14. AJ

    It's funny how we pick apart words that Obama and his camp have to say. Hillary is looking for the easy black vote. She is assuming that black people are so small minded and believe that Bill Clinton is as close to a "brother" as we can get. Get real black America. Bill Clinton may have been a great president, but he is no brother. I get sick and tired of seeing Hillary at black churches singing "we shall over come." Over come what? She don't go to white churches with that crap. She thinks all it takes is to sing a hymn at a black church and remind blacks that she is the wife of Bill Clinton and black American is behind her.

    December 29, 2007 12:35 am at 12:35 am |
  15. Tony

    I wonder where the polls come from... are they only surveying convention participants?

    And in the end... does it matter who "you like" or even who voted?... last time I checked, the US was playing "Duck-Duck-Goose" when installing our government officials.

    Bush lost twice- and that didn't make a difference at all.

    After Queen Hillary holds office... Jed Bush is going to reappear and get his turn.

    And I'm sure... he's as looney as his big brother and will lead our country through his own self-fulfilling proficies.

    Every term we talk about passing the country on to our children in better shape... yet, we never digress from the dead-end leaders that always lead us astray.

    People are afraid to take chances with Obama. Like most poor Republicans... they prefer to see thier money go into the pockets of wealthy mean than to the charity of their common-neighbor.

    Without the globalization, war and moxi to knock off another country... what's left to be an American? Don't feed me that Constitutional Lie crap... we threw that away almost 12 years ago.

    December 29, 2007 12:56 am at 12:56 am |
  16. MG

    OBAMA: "My wife and I were talking the other day. And she said 'We're not doing this again'. And those of you who met her know she doesn't mince words,” said Obama. “She meant that in eight years, I'm not sure we'll be the same people we are now."

    So there you have it – right from the horse's mouth. This statement implies:
    1. Obama may not really have the character, the calling, and the heart to lead a nation because he would not endure in the face of defeat.
    2. He may just be an opportunist at best - seizing the moment he finds favorable to him because as he unfolds his true or new character, he might not have the same fighting chance at the top post.
    3. He may be may be employing emotional blackmail on the American people .

    Out from the mouth comes what's in the heart. I can hardly wait for his triangulated explanations to rebutt the implications of his own statement.

    December 29, 2007 01:07 am at 1:07 am |
  17. Andrew, Atlanta

    Sounds like a marketing ploy. Given that he's younger than Hillary, a lot of Democrats consider him to be a good candidate in the future: Hillary now, Obama next. So, sounds like him and his wife schemed up "I won't run again" so people will vote for him now because they won't be able to vote for him later. Is it me, or are all the stunts politicans (Democrat and Republicans alike) pulling this year really, really transparent? Or maybe I'm just getting smarter.

    December 29, 2007 01:07 am at 1:07 am |
  18. Dan Toronto, Canada

    As a Canadian citizen and current resident I'm what you would consider as someone without a stake in this election process. The truth is exactly the opposite. Whoever you elect in the coming year will not only shape your future but my own and many others around the world. Parsing through the rhetoric north of the 49th parallel it has become quite clear to me that Obama is the way to go. I dont know if you get this but his views are in sync with the rest of western civilization. You want respect from other nations- then elect someone who hasn't been broken by your system yet.

    December 29, 2007 01:08 am at 1:08 am |
  19. Robert M. Reidy N.Y.

    In light of or should I say the darkness of what just happened in Pakistan by Religious bigots, if you were a black man would you stick your neck out more than once. Barak Obama is certainly the most courageous man of our time.

    His election as president would show the world the power of a Democratic Republic like nothing else.

    A Barak Obama presidency would be front page news all over the world!

    American prestige would take a Quantum leap!

    We at home would feel good about ourselves again and proud to elect a man of the world.

    Already the most creative minds are sending resumes to him for he shows
    intelligence, open mindedness, energy and purpose. These are qualities
    that attract brilliance.

    If it is leadership with the real possibility of change that helps, there is only
    one choice Barak H. Obama!

    December 29, 2007 01:10 am at 1:10 am |
  20. mike

    What was that about? If you think the accumulation of experience, knowledge and wisdom will make you not want to run the country....then you are not the person for the job.

    December 29, 2007 01:14 am at 1:14 am |
  21. na

    It will help him but if we were a nation of smart people all would know as I do that this is a caluculated false statement to get more votes. And it will but smarter ones like myself can see right through crap like this. I, for one, don't like calculating people espically if they tell lies.

    December 29, 2007 01:44 am at 1:44 am |
  22. Chris Sweat, WI

    I think they hit it right on the head, when they stated that they are "fresh and opn and fearless". That is what I want out of the President. Loads of experience is not always a good thing; they have not had time to be manipulated and influenced by politics. I am a 23 year old Production Coordinator at a facility where I am supervising 83 people on a daily basis (most of which are well older than 23). Would you tell me that they did not interview other candidates with loads more of experience?

    Well, they did but they picked me, largely due to the fact that I have fresh ideas and I have not been beaten down or manipulated by the politics of the Manufacturing world. I am pretty sure if you ask them they are happy with their decision, otherwise I would not be here.

    Time is not the sole contributor to experience. It is what you do with that time that provides you with the experience you desire.

    Not only that, Leadership is not a learned skill, it is something you are born with!!!!

    December 29, 2007 01:52 am at 1:52 am |
  23. Duane

    OK. Let's first just say, what absolute gall it is to tell the American people that "if you don't take me now, you'll never get me." While he is a great speaker and probably has a lot of political savvy, he is NOT the second coming of Christ. How is it that a less-than-one-term senator has any claim to being the cure for all the nations ills and if the voters don't take him now, they have lost their one great hope. Get over yourself! Hillary would make a fantastic president. So, too, would Edwards. So, too, presumably, would Obama. But to suggest it's "now or never" is absolutely ridiculous and requires a serious step down off the high horse. If Barrack is serious about leading this country, he will, like Edwards, continue to let his name stand in the future when perhaps he has a little more experience under his belt. If that is not the case, he is nothing more than a political opportunist that needs to be regarded as such ... which seems to me the very type of politician he is trying so hard NOT to be. First off, I am an observer from Canada and we've had more than our share or pompous, arrogant politicians over the years who think this is "their time" and we have blindly let them in, only to turf their sorry carcases out in a pool of regret a short time later. Take these words very strongly, dear Americans. Do you want a president who tells you he'll serve you now, but it's your loss if you don't? I sure wouldn't.

    December 29, 2007 01:55 am at 1:55 am |
  24. neelofer

    How is it that Obama is committed to changing systemic corruption in Washington, its corporate allies, lobbyists, Americans, and the world when he can see a danger (being out of touch with the average American) and still say he won't be the same person in 8 years that he is now?

    Are his lifestyle and values so open to corruption that knowing the threat, he doesn't think he'll be able to prevent it?

    This is embarrassing to hear from someone who is supposed to be the new face of politics, the one outside of Washington's corruption.

    December 29, 2007 02:00 am at 2:00 am |
  25. Jim, Cherokee

    Not very dedacated are they. Does not show strength here at all. Sorry Senator Obama not this time around. "Senator Clinton 2008"

    December 29, 2007 02:00 am at 2:00 am |
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