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. sean

    Don't run this time!!

    December 29, 2007 07:34 am at 7:34 am |
  2. Kitty Brown

    Believe me, the Obama's have already lost touch with reality and they have the campaign staff to prove it. I worked for the Kerry campaign but was not deemed good enough for the Obama campaign because I have a degree from a State University, not an Ivy league one and my trust fund just isn't big enough to compete with that of the people they want representing the campaign. Oops, actually, I don't have a trust fund or a Hollywood name. Oh yeah, and Hillary actually hired me, a woman over 40 with a recent degree and no trust fund or Ivy league education. Women, don't get sucked in by Oprah on this one, Obama does not have your best interests in mind, he probably doesn't even know what you need.

    December 29, 2007 07:35 am at 7:35 am |
  3. parm

    hey man america has been here long befor you and will be here long after you.
    so pack your bags and go to indonesia

    December 29, 2007 07:44 am at 7:44 am |
  4. Bird, Charlotte, NC

    I'm still undecided, but his comments struck a cord with me. Being lower middle class I have never felt millionaire politicians who have been on the professional fast track since leaving college or law school could identify with my struggles.

    My grandfather supported a family of 12 and purchased a home doing manual labor. With the help of millionaire business people and politians, in only two generations a family now requires two incomes to live a moderate lifestyle with only two children. And those incomes need to be fairly high. Much of America is being denied the dream although we desperately need the services they provide and with high rate of divorce and lack of family values in this country two income families are becoming increasingly rare.

    I like that Barack has faced the same struggles I endure daily and I have to admit I'm leaning toward giving him my vote.

    December 29, 2007 07:45 am at 7:45 am |
  5. Carroll Houston Tx

    I like Obama but I don't feel he is ready for this job – yet. This thing just shows me how unready he is that his wife rules in his own home even on his career. Do I want someone to run this country who can't run his own home and his own career? I don't like Hillary but I respect her guts and determination so she is getting my vote because the collossal mess the next president will inherit will need someone who can negotiate and win over people and allies. They have dropped away from the cowboy bring em on. I can't see a Republican winning for dog catcher next year much less for president because they have remained supportive of Bush and will go down with him. It is pretty simple that I won't vote for any person who has actively supported this war policy and Bush's stubborn refusal to be realistic. Katrina showed us how prepared we are here for another emergency or attack at home. All of our monies and supplies, equipment and men are so busy rebuilding Iraq that those poor souls in New Orleans got the shaft. But of all of them Obama was and is the smartest just not well enough seasoned to do the job.

    December 29, 2007 07:51 am at 7:51 am |
  6. Tony, Enterprise, Alabama

    Senator Obama is not an everyman.

    The more he tries to sell this "I'm just a normal Joe" image, the more laughable he becomes. He is an empty suit, with no credible credentials to become President. He is not even qualified to be a U.S. Senator. And his recent foreign policy comments are not only bush league, they are also frightening.

    It pleases me to no end that when this election cycle is over, according to Mrs. Obama, we will not have to hear from him anymore.

    December 29, 2007 07:59 am at 7:59 am |
  7. Laurinda

    Well, I don't know about the rest of you, but I can't stand all these candidates fighting with each other all the time, it makes me sick. I just wish they would stop it and act like a potential president should. This fighting does not make me feel good about voting. Stop the fighting all of you. If you can't say something nice then don't say anything. I am so tired of fighting all the time.

    December 29, 2007 08:01 am at 8:01 am |
  8. Chicken Little Was Right!! PEACE

    Nobody believed that Michelle wears the pants in the family! But not to worry cuz the country ran just fine for 8 years under Nancy Reagan didn't it? I'm sure Michelle is equally as capable too.

    BTW studies have shown that Target attracks the more upscale yuppie crowd, while WalMart and KMart caters to the more average ordinary folks all across the country (heck WalMart probably isn't even in Chicago Hyde Park is it – as they tend to stick with less crowded urban areas and go with more rural. PLZ have Obambi's crazy Uncle Cheney give her pointers on the responsibilities of owning a gun 😉

    Anyway this is the golden opportunity to FINALLY elect the mantra of the 60's = Don't trust anyone over 30 and we need to get rid of the establishment NOW. Well Nixon (and Kissinger) at least got us out of the Vietnam War pronto as promised - but power went to Nixon's head and we ended up with Watergate. How many of the youngsters here know what Watergate was?? It was the name of the hotel where the Democrats had their national headquarters in 1972, the theory is that Nixon became paranoid during his reelection and had some "operatives break in" to see what the Dems had going against the GOP!! Some "busybody insomniac" called the cops and the rest as they say is history... That's how Jimmy Carter essentially got elected (while he has matured into a great man of vision and an elder statesman now, all in all his presidency wasn't every effective = hence we got Nancy Reagan for 8 years, no big deal) . NOW we have a chance to not only GET IT RIGHT this time, but to elect Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's DREAM into office too. What more could anyone ever hope for? It's now or never - all we are saying is give love a chance.....

    December 29, 2007 08:01 am at 8:01 am |
  9. Blue Dog Coalition


    December 29, 2007 08:12 am at 8:12 am |
  10. anon middle class america

    Is it just me - or does that picture make it look like Michelle is ready to strangle her husband?!

    Where does CNN come up with these goofy photos and sillier stories 😉

    December 29, 2007 08:15 am at 8:15 am |
  11. stephen ebert we need to listen to the wife or the husband? This question applies to both Hillary and Barack. Whomever the president is, he needs to stand on his own two feet.

    December 29, 2007 08:17 am at 8:17 am |
  12. Rob

    The audacity of this! Grasping for straws and using his own weakness to do it. If his wife won’t let him run, how can he be expected to run the country in such times as we are living? I’m sorry, but “my wife won’t let me” is a clichéd joke best saved for dated stand up comics not for someone running for President of the United States to use as campaign or political strategy.

    This is yet another in a long line of foolish gaffs in Obama’s speeches that needs to be better addressed by the media. Stop giving this guy a pass every time he says these things.

    December 29, 2007 08:26 am at 8:26 am |
  13. Colin

    We need him to win – watch this to see why

    December 29, 2007 08:34 am at 8:34 am |
  14. J Fleming

    As refreshing and inspiring as Barack Obama is, I think the best and most viable ticket for '08 is Edwards/Obama. Obama is no doubt a superstar in the Democratic party, but as it has been said before, he will be slammed on his political history (or lack thereof) in the run-up to general election. Hillary is too polarizing, and I'm keeping fingers and toes crossed that the woman does not get the nomination. If we Democrats wish to take back the White House, it is essential that we select the candidate that is most electable.

    I know that any of the Dem potentials running would far better represent my interests, values, and wishes for the future direction of the country than any of the Republican potentials, but when it becomes crunch time, we have to select someone who can win. I think Edwards is the most palatable Democratic candidate to all of the country (because honestly, we can't forgets that some of the citizens who will be voting are bigots who will vote for the specific reason of not seeing a woman [specifically Hillary Clinton] or a "black" man in the oval office), he is likeable and he is still young, he's from the South, and he's seasoned. It's time to save our country from drowning in this abyss of ignorance, arrogance and short-sightedness that we have sailed into in the last 7 years.

    December 29, 2007 08:42 am at 8:42 am |
  15. Glazed, Detroit metro

    Ho Boy – We all better re-thick. The Obama will be gone for ever. Canot stop crying.

    December 29, 2007 08:53 am at 8:53 am |
  16. Terry, El Paso, TX

    I think Obama points out something important about the presidency: the lives of those who seek it are very very different from the lives of middle-class Americans. They live in a world that is very different from ours. They spend a lot of time talking and not so much time reading and thinking. The believe that the first obligation of power is to remain in power. The Clintons have spent their adult lives in office or running for office. So have most of the other candidates. It would be nice if citizen candidates emerged from the middle class, were somehow recommended for election, installed in office, and then return to their middle class lives.

    The ancient Athenians would fill some offices by lottery, drawing names from a hat more or less. The names were all of free adult men – women, slaves, and the lower class were ineligible for office – qualified for the office. After holding office, at his own expense as a civic duty, the selected individual had to defend his conduct while in office. I would prefer selection of the president by lottery of qualified people to our current process, which selects among those who are willing to run for the job for five-ten-fifteen years.

    I am suspicious of those who actually WANT to be president. It is a killer of a job. Look at photos of a president on his first and last days in office. Jimmy Carter aged 15 years during his four. A former president once remarked that his happiest days in office were his first and last days. I cannot imagine a mentally healthy, mature adult that would even consider running for the presidency. Those who select themselves as worthy candidates should be excluded from consideration for the position.

    When Obama repeated his wife's comment that win or lose she was not willing to go through the election process again, I considered supporting him for the first time. Perhaps he is different from the others.

    December 29, 2007 09:00 am at 9:00 am |
  17. Elizabeth,

    I don't think he's running to soon, I think he's running just in time. He's just being realistic, he knows what needs to be done and it doesn't take much Senate or congress watching to figure out you don't necessarily accomplish much from those chairs. Although, politics is a tough game and I was hoping that he would come back next inning if he loses this round. I don't know why any of them bring there family's on the campaign trail anyway. I would not be having my husband do speeches for me. I am more likely not to vote for someone, if I think that what I am really voting for is someone else's views instead. My husband knows better and rarely has any views, but always does the grocery shopping.

    December 29, 2007 09:07 am at 9:07 am |
  18. David, Silver Spring MD

    To Elvirea, Linda in Kansas City, and similar: what kind of husband and father wouldn't take his wife's opinions into consideration on something like this? I bet this kind of remark ("My wife won't let me....") has been made by every president since George and Martha Washington. He's not making threats or being a baby, he's making a mature statement about what makes him, now, the best candidate.

    Y'all are missing the larger point here. What Obama is saying is that he will never be as close to the issues that concern ordinary Americans (paying off college debt, having to shop sales at Target to make ends meet, raising kids) as he is right now. He is now in the best position to truly understand what it means to be a middle class American. Wealth and fame have not yet fully insulated him from what the rest of us experience.

    If you believe that Dubya is a "man of the people" because he can put on a cowboy hat and hang out at his own private Dude Ranch, then you won't understand what Obama is saying.

    Maybe it's just that you've been lied to so long, you can't recognize an honest statement when you hear one.

    December 29, 2007 09:11 am at 9:11 am |
  19. Mike, Houston, TX

    So now we know who "wears the pants" in the Obama family.

    December 29, 2007 09:26 am at 9:26 am |
  20. Messiahsaurus

    Then by all means drop out and go home to your wife, Obama. Sounds like trickery to my ear anyway.

    December 29, 2007 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  21. John

    Obama has no real experience to speak of,..certainly not when it comes to the responsibilities of being the president of the most powerful country in the world. It concerns me that his wife can so easily dictate to him his future in politics. I wonder how that would play out in his presidential decisions. Pretty scary.

    December 29, 2007 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  22. Mac

    I'm from Illinois and Barack is supposed to be our Senator yet I have seen nothing from him as a Senator. What's his voting record? Oh, that's right; he's not around to vote because he's spending his term as Senator running around the country campaigning to become president. The people of Illinois did not vote Barack into office so he could run around the country trying to drum up votes to become president. Based on his track record as Senator I cannot support him or vote for him as President.

    And let's be real, the Obama's with their high salary jobs, million+ dollar home
    and high profile lifestyle are already out of touch with the regular folks. They want to present themselves as being one of us when they are clearly not. Most politicians are not regular folks.

    Barack needs to do the job he was given as US Senator for the people of Illinois. Show us some kind of track record, voting record, etc. before asking for my vote for President.

    Maybe you could be Hilary’s running mate as Vice President.

    December 29, 2007 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  23. Mohammad

    This man is a great speaker and a great motivator. This recent story and headline is bologna. Whatever, now it transparent of his politics. I've lost respect for this man. He'll be at it again when he loses.

    December 29, 2007 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
  24. Jerome

    I understand the arguement of Barack Obama's experience but that is a very weak agruement in my eyes. Benjamin Franklin once said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. And that what we are doing to some degree we are choosing that same type of leaders with the same type of background and thinking that the country is going to change for the better. People look at the Clinton years and want to go back to that but first remember Hil is not Bill and secondly we all ask the question if the Clinton Years were so great "which they were better" how did we go from Clinton to Bush?

    December 29, 2007 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  25. J. McKinney SW MO

    If Obama gets to be president, he won't be our president, Michelle will. she obviously runs him. And that scares the heck out of me, because I haven't seen anything even remotely presidential out of her. She has a very definate "attitude" and look at her–she has mean eyes, and always a sarcastic or defiant look on her face.
    As far as them not running again–she says they won't do it again. If she is sick of it now, what shape will she be in after 4 years as "first lady" and the responsibilities this entails??
    Let's get a grip, people. NEITHER ONE of this pair are ready for the presidency. We need someone with experience, someone capable and brilliant, and ready to lead on day one. We need Hillary.

    December 29, 2007 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
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