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. Katrina M. Dallas, TX

    I don't blame Obama for not wanting to spend his entire life chasing the presidency. He is right – after you are in the Oval Office for awhile, or any high-end government position like that – you COULD lose touch with us, the "comman" man. Bush, anyone?

    I don't think it's Michelle "running the show". Her husband would just respect her wishes not to get that deeply involved in politics again. How crazy is THAT – a man considering his wife's feelings? Should she just stand in the background, nod her head yes and agree with everything Obama says or does? I don't think so.

    For all of the other candidate's "experience" in politics – the captain of the Titanic also had years of experience behind him that sunk him in the end. I agree – we need clearer definitions of the change that Obama wants. But, I am more than willing to listen to it and not dismiss him because he made a real and honest comment and didn't just tell people (I'll run until I make it!) what they want to hear.

    December 28, 2007 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  2. Michael Spencer

    Obama certainly can be charismatic, but he still seems like an empty suit to me. If some Pakistani nuclear material should fall into Al Qaeda's hands, I'm not sure he's the person I want sitting in the Oval Office. His winning smile is not going to charm some fanatic into giving up.

    December 28, 2007 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  3. Jackson, Monrongo Valley, CA

    He shouldn't be running this time ... as Andrew Young stated, he would make a great president in 2016 ... but he is not ready yet ... only confused republicans think he is.

    December 28, 2007 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  4. s.l. Garciab

    It is obvious to me that most of the negative responders really do not want "real"change for this country. Most of them probably do not even vote. Obama is the real deal...he is honest, intelligent and has excellent judgement. We don't need the "has beens" in here we? Wake up folks. We all make statements that we don,t really mean....could this be one from the Obama camp?

    December 28, 2007 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  5. Jen, Gainesville, FL

    I agree with Kevin from MD. There is a reason why many decent people want to stay out of politics, for example Powell. Just see how dirty the Clinton machine is (they have no shame) and how many turns Edwards has taken to get elected.

    The Obama family has scrificed a lot for this run. Holding the family together is number 1 for every decent person. The American people deserve whatever candidate they will eventually elect. See how they are enjoying Bush (and the war), who was elected twice?

    If Obama loses, the decline of U.S. can not be reversed. The next power will be China.

    December 28, 2007 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  6. Michael Patrick

    Some of you people with your comments have issues within yourselves. As i said to countless numbers of people, "THE ONLY PEOPLE WITH ENOUGH EXPERIENCE FOR THE PRESIDENCY ARE EX-PRESIDENTS!!!!!!" Please read that over and over and over again and think about it. The office of POTUS is a unique job that is unmatched by any other. Every candidate that is running does not possess enough experience for the job. You gain experience by OJT, or to translate that for some of you upity folks, that is on-the-job training. Some of you are so stuck on the concept of business-as-usual. Scared of change, afraid of something different, or can it be just plain terrified of a Black man becoming POTUS.

    It makes me sick to my stomach to hear all the reasons why Barack should not be the chosen one. But I guess the same people who goes against him are probably the same people who so graciously and proudly chose ol' W. People ar still stuck in the "good ol boy" system. Funny to see people afraid of something new and charismatic.

    PLEASE, IF ANYONE WANTS TO TRADE BARBS OR COMMENT ON ANYTHING I HAVE SAID, PLEASE FEEL FREE TO CONTACT ME. MR.P@ALLTEL.BLACKBERRY.COM. I welcome everyone. Good luck to the Obama family and i hope that you remain like one of us commoners and not become the snob scum that is a plague in our government.

    December 28, 2007 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  7. Nita

    It is so unbelievable what comes out of Michelle's mouth. Doesn't any of his staffers read what she will say in public? Admit you were wrong Michelle. America isn't ready for Obama or for Michelle. I love this. She just doesn't know when to keep her mouth shut. We hear you it's now or never. Goodbye.

    December 28, 2007 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  8. samuyel

    Cliche statement! No one knows what will happen in 8 yrs. time. Look at yesterday - Ms. Bhutto is gone! No one is eternal on this planet! Who could have "accurately" predicted the timing. We need leaders to adapt to changing times...and very fast times indeed. We need leaders to keep themselves alert at all times and be part of the "people" instead of vs. the people. Voila - my cup of tea in this limited space. Happy New Year/s. I must admit we need them badly -
    considering the intellect and the goodwill-ed people we have around...

    December 28, 2007 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  9. EmmyJ

    Ok - His comment is straight out of the "sales training" book.

    Here's how it works.

    Create a sense of urgency so the buyer thinks this is their only chance to purchase or they'll miss out on a great deal.

    Of course, he's giving the dirty work to his wife to create the "urgency" - but it's a bunch of bull crap either way. Who wants a guy who says, "IF I DON'T WIN, I'M NOT PLAYING ANYMORE."

    I was thinking maybe after he got more experience I MIGHT vote for him at some point when he's an older man - but who wants a guy who doesn't seem to take politics seriously?

    This isn't a game. Our country needs someone who can endure the long run because we have a lot of issues facing us as a nation.


    Sick of him already and I'm not even a republican.

    December 28, 2007 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  10. TJ

    So I assume that ,being a man of his word, if Sen. Obama doesn't get the nomination he will forever remain a Senator? I would hate for this story to be brought up in 4, 8, 12 years from now and he and his wife have to explain how they are ready to serve after suggesting today that someone "that still lives a normal life" is the best person to serve as President. This is only a scare tactic the campaign is using to make people think "it is now or never for Senator Obama." Their premise is right – it really is now or never, but not for Senator Obama. Now is the time to put America back on the path to peace and diplomacy. The economy is 1 low pressure system away from a terrible storm and we haven't heard anything from the Junior Senator from Illinois. I hate to hear you say you are going to never seek the Presidency again if you aren't nominated this year. Some of the best public servants in the world weren't quitters (Lincoln) why are you saying you are going to be one? Giving up so soon? The United States doesn't need a quitter! Senator Clinton has just gained several points in the poll because you are quitting provided you don't get the nomination. That is a juvenile way to do things! GO HILLARY!

    December 28, 2007 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  11. RGreen7756

    I was really supportive of Hillary Clinton until Obama got in the race. I truly believe he is the one candidate who can put America on the right path and resurrect our reputation in the world to the place it was immediately after 9/11 before GWB invaded Iraq and sent the whole world to hell in a handbasket.

    After the campaign Hillary Clinton, her husband and advisers have run against Obama (talk about dirty politics), I am seriously considering the Republican candidate if she wins the primary.

    December 28, 2007 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  12. Rosa Peralta. San Antonio. Texas

    Really? There is hope that we won't hear them again!

    December 28, 2007 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  13. O P, WI

    I'll vote for Obama, he would make a great President. All you haters need to open your minds. Rise above. No Fear!

    December 28, 2007 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  14. BionicWoman

    None of the spouses are helping. You can judge a person by close associates and she is not Obama's best advocate. 8 years from now, after he's been Governor of Illinois and he hints of a run – this story will get dredged up.

    The whole thing speaks to inexperience and to motives for running for office.
    What ever happened to JFK and "Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what can you do for your country".

    December 28, 2007 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  15. Jon, Pittsburgh, PA

    The comments expressed daily on these blogs points to just how judgemental Americans are. Someone wrote that Michelle is so ambitious, just look at her eyes. Really? You can look at someone and determine who they are and what they are about? Shocking.

    Others in the world would certainly read these type comments and confirm their belief that Americans are indeed stupid and uninformed.

    December 28, 2007 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  16. Mario Uy Streamwood

    People. Are you ready to vote for a president who will do what his wife tells him to do, instead of what is good for the USA and the rest of the world?

    Pardon me, but the husband is running for the presidency of the USA, where his actions will affect the entire world. This is not just another job.

    Just because there is a little heat associated with the campaign, the wife is already putting pressure on the husband to change direction? How is his wife going to handle him when he is already the president and is faced with much larger challenges? A better question yet, how is he going to handle his wife?

    She seems to be only concerned about themselves rather than what's good for the country? Again, her demeanor would have been ok had her husband been just applying for a regular job.

    If she can't take the heat, and the husband can't take the heat from the wife, are you really going to vote the husband to be “THE” leader of the world?

    I’m not suggesting that the president of the USA should never listen to his wife. They can talk all they want. But keep it private. In this case, Obama made it public. Going forward, how would it look to the world, if he is elected president and he says he is for/against such and such policy because his wife says so?

    Whatever his motivation is in making this public, he is sending the wrong message…and that already shows poor judgment.

    Mario Uy
    Streamwood IL

    December 28, 2007 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  17. Cheryl Des Moines IA

    I love Obama...I dont know though if that will be one of those statements that they play back 10 years from now and he will just have to laugh at...This man is a born leader with vision...He could very possibly be a VP candidate if he does not win the nomination but for Gods sake dont give the republicans the race by voting for HIllary.....


    December 28, 2007 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  18. greg,new york

    I believe what htey are saying to be the thruth , howeverwhy is this a big story.
    I suggest americans really pay attention if we do not vote for OBAMA I just will have to belive that america Is SOS (stuck on stupid).
    There is a joke about a man who it trapped in his house while the floods in katrina happend.he prayed to god for god to save his life. And so while evacuation were happenning agroup of people came with a bus a nd told him to get in gthe bus they were here to help him. he refused and said he had prayed to god and that god would help him.Hours later people on a boat came herefused there help saying god would help him.the water got high so he had to stand on the roof then folks in ahelcopter came he refused saying GOD would help him.
    eventuallly the man drowned and died. when he died he asked god why did you not save me. GOD replied I sent you a bus , aBoat , and helicopter what was wrong with that help.
    MY point is I believe that OBAMA is our help please help him help us.
    So that 4 or 8 years from now we are not still scratching our as to what happpen to this great country.
    please les think reall hard about our future.
    what ever you decide will impact us profoundly. I wish this country well
    As I am not in Iowa, I hope OBMA makes it through.
    I want to vote for him.
    IF he is not the nominee and HRC is, I will not vote I believe it will be more of the same as usual lots of BS.

    December 28, 2007 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  19. Jim P. - Chicago

    Of course he's not going to run again – This will be your only chance! Yea right!!

    December 28, 2007 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  20. Jay, Omaha, NE

    First off I think this is just a statement to get more votes. Second, if it is true what his wife said then he does not deserve to be president, because then it has to be obivious he zips his pants on the side and not in front!

    December 28, 2007 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  21. David Atella

    atleast one obama is showing decision making, too bad its not barrack. boy oprah leads him around by the nose, axelrod fights his battles and wife wears the pants! and this guy wanted to be President, not of this country! His troubles are just starting, the press has given him a free ride, Glad to see its coming to an end and voters are researching and finding NO SUBSTANCE or EXPERIENCE! Vote for Richardson!

    December 28, 2007 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  22. BH- Iowa

    I'm sorry to hear that. I was hoping to support him 8-12 years down the road after he gained more experience. Was a little surprised at his comment about being a different person and losing touch with ordinary people eight years down the road. I hope that in eight years I am the same person I am today, just a wiser one.

    December 28, 2007 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  23. ADB

    I dont believe it....I think he has way too much ambition....

    December 28, 2007 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  24. Donald Johnson

    It is tough being a politician at any level of government. Politicians can't make everybody happy. Our fore fathers really got it right when they wrote the first amendment. I don't have to wonder what it would be like if we didn't have freedom of speach. All I have to do is think about some of the places I've been around the world to know how good freedom of speach is.

    One thing is for sure during January 2009 someonewill take the oath of office and become the President of the United States. It is very likely four years later Americans will re-elect him/her to a second term and we'll spend the last two years of that term slamming him/her for doing a poor job.

    I will let the canidates help me make up my mind which one of them deserve my vote and not some voter who has his/her own agenda. The next time I say anything about the canidates for president will be when I cast my one and only vote on election day. Just thinking about being able to cast my one vote makes me feel happy all over.

    Don, Clinton Maryland

    December 28, 2007 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  25. sadhana khan

    I was elected yesterday, Obama said. I have never set foot in the U.S. Senate. Ive never worked in Washington. And the notion that somehow Im immediately going to start running for higher office just doesnt make sense. So look, I can unequivocally say I will not be running for national office in four years, and my entire focus is making sure that Im the best possible senator on behalf of the people of Illinois. He further elaborated: Look, Im a state senator who hasnt even been sworn in yet. My understanding is that I will be ranked 99th in seniority. Im going to be spending the first several months of my career in the U.S. Senate looking for the washroom and trying to figure out how the phones work.

    So, in four years, Obama went from figuring out how to use the telephones and finding bathrooms, to becoming a foreign policy expert, while missing 1/3 of his votes and failing to hold a single hearing as the CHAIR of Senate Foreign Relations committee. Right?

    December 28, 2007 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
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