October 18th, 2007
03:12 PM ET
10 years ago

Obama on Leno: Michelle can take on Bill Clinton

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

soundoff (190 Responses)
  1. John Adkisson, Sacramento, California

    Go Obama! The only thing that can hurt his chances is if the Iowa Democrats schedule their caucuses after the New Hampshire primary. Apparently this is still under consideration. The Iowa caucuses being held first is key to Obama's strategy.

    October 18, 2007 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  2. Terry, Milford CT

    Tsk, Tsk CNN

    Barack did not say "She doesn't play." He said, according to transcripts, "She doesn't flinch"

    Maybe you need to watch the video again:

    October 18, 2007 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  3. lou tulsa ok

    The Democratic ticket will be Clinton/Nobama, lapel flags notwithstanding. Both will be defeated when push comes to shove in November.

    Did you ever think America would come to the point where the public discussion revolved around whether one candidate's wife could be left alone with another candidate's husband?

    Is this the best we can do for candidates at the highest level of office? The rest of the world is laughing at us, and not in a good way.

    What have we allowed to be done to our country?

    October 18, 2007 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  4. Anonymous

    obama you just offend me with your statement against the president he his not in the race why do you want to disrespect a popular man like Clinton who know your wife ? she nothing here pls. and you cannot win any election i bet you.

    October 18, 2007 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  5. Lina,Orlando,FL

    i support obama 100%...i think his wife can surely beat clinton anytime
    GO OBAMA!!!!!!!!!!

    October 18, 2007 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  6. TheInsider

    Obama Bashes, Courts K Street
    Senator Now Seeks Lobbyists By Tory Newmyer
    Roll Call Staff
    October 18, 2007

    Even as Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) has intensified his attacks on Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) for her ties to K Street, he has been reaching out to lobbyists to provide volunteer manpower in early primary states.


    Follow the money...

    October 18, 2007 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  7. Lifeasdrama

    Great JOb Obama! I think Obama is living out the audacity of hope he has.
    He truly understands the riduments of the Democrats game. Let's get it on ...

    October 18, 2007 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  8. Monte Brown, New York, NY

    Obama is just trying to be a carbon copy of Bill Clinton. He knows that Hillary Clinton will make a more effective president than himself. Obama, like the right wing demagogues, is just mad. Obama is a Republican wolf in sheep’s clothing. The more people spread their hate, lies and contemptuous demagoguery of Hillary the more we Americans, who love our country and its values, show our unwavering support for Hillary. In these wide piping times of war and discontent the last thing we need in the White House is a slick talking egomaniac. We must take our country back completely from the right wingers and send their ideology into the abyss for the sake of our children and for the prosperity of our nation. Hillary Clinton is the most qualified, the most experienced and she is READY TO LEAD.

    October 18, 2007 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  9. Anthony, Pittsburgh PA

    Obama's comment about his wife being able to beat former President Bill Clinton on a debate just exemplifies how misguided he is.

    October 18, 2007 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  10. Jennifer, Mobile, Alabama


    I fail to see how those comments are so "disgraceful." What exactly are you talking about?

    Is it disgraceful that he recognizes his wife as a strong woman? Or that this was brought out in the context of Bill Clinton's infidelity?

    All that aside, you do realize that the appearance was on JAY LENO. It is a late night COMEDY SHOW. Anything on the show is going to have a humorous twist.

    I for one thought that the interview went very well, and that it was far more of a serious tone that Jay Leno normally takes with his guests.

    October 18, 2007 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  11. Jeff Spangler, Arlington, VA

    Too funny, Obama. Bubba would trash your honey in debate.

    October 18, 2007 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  12. Kathey Klopas, Hong Kong

    It is hard to think that a person in the mold and with the experience of Barak Obama would allow a jester lure him out in the open for Political snipers to take aim.
    Soon, he'll start to spend his time and money trying to "cleanse" himself of such "ploiticaly incorrect" statements.

    October 18, 2007 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  13. Mark, Palo Alto, CA

    Obama loses all credibility when he suggests that his wife can take on Bill Clinton (former President, Governor and Rhodes Scholar) in a debate.

    October 18, 2007 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  14. hmmm...OKLAHOMA

    I watched the interview last night on Leno and I feel that Obama hit the nail on the head. The Clintons are declaring victory too early...just take a look at the contributions to both campaigns; Hilary has received alot of donations from lobbyists, and Obama has raised nearly as much money from donation directly from the American people at $5 and $10 a pop. This tells me that the American populas has certainly not spoken yet; and the people, not the pundits, also have the final say.

    October 18, 2007 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  15. TheDecider

    Monte Brown,

    Ready to lead what?? What has she lead? Failed Health Care reform, picking Janet Reno for AG, voting for the Iraq war, doing nothing as a Senator but run for President, give us little or no substance about her policy positions, changing her mind of the positions she has gave, giving authorization to the president for war with Iran, Collecting all the money she can from special interests and PACs, and changing her position on Torture again. Wow what a leader she has made, I think we should pass on her as being president, it would be a nightmare.

    October 18, 2007 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  16. Maria, Houston

    CNN, why did you remove my comment?

    Obama campaign received $1,500,000,00 in two days from small donations (and still counting)... You remove that headline after few hours, although it is a significant news because it shows widespread support and optimism about Obama's candidacy.

    Shame on you for feeding us this fluf and trying to create cheap controversy. Are you competing National Enquirer? And if so, take the criticism. You let in all vulgar racist comments, but you censor everyone who does not buy your profund bias against Barack Obama.

    October 18, 2007 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  17. Natasha Blunt, Houston, TX

    Voila .... comparing Michelle Obama (no matter how brillant she is – Harvard graduate) with Bill Clinton (the best ever public speaker and debater so far) is an arrogant feat. That's an insult in a way, though ... come on Obama, you can do much classy than that. That's freaking cheap comment, you know?

    October 18, 2007 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  18. Kiyoko, Bronx, NY

    So many complain about Obama's inexperience – as if he is the first inexperienced senator to win a presidency. I suspect his 'inexperience' is being used as a scapegoat, and detracts from the real issue at hand.

    The real question is this – is America ready to face itself in the mirror, and support it's own tenants of equality and freedom with action? In over 200 years, America has not had a female or minority president. This deficit (or lack of confidence) speaks to our own contradictions as a nation. Go Obama, Go Hilary, Go anything other than the upper class white male status quo. Maybe a change will help propel this country towards a brighter future.

    October 18, 2007 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  19. Chip Celina OH

    Jennifer from Mobile has it right. You clowns need to lighten up.

    READY TO LEAD, what a joke, nice copy from the website.

    October 18, 2007 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  20. Leonard C. MCKinnis, II - Chicago, IL

    Obama is delusional. It is a direct insult for him to suggest that his wife can out deabte former President Clinton. His arrogance in these remarks are a turn off. Even if I were considering voting for this inexperienced opportunist, these remarks would completely turn me in the opposite diretion. His wife is another Teresa Heinz-Kerry. He had better shut her up before she outshines him. How pathetic.

    October 18, 2007 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  21. RJ, SV, AZ

    I love the people that choose to insult Obama for practically anything and turn around and laugh uproariously when Rudy gets a [completely unscripted] phone call from his wife. Give me a break.

    If you want more of the same, vote Republican or Hillary aka Republicrat. Hope you enjoy socialized health care and many more years of war. Cheers!

    October 18, 2007 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  22. Wayne, Silver Spring, MD

    The biggest applause line of the night was "Hillary is not the first politician in Washington that thought mission accomplished a little too soon"! why not title it as such, CNN?

    Dont you guys think it's a bit shameful to keep spinning the news to Clinton's advantage?

    October 18, 2007 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  23. Philip, Elkhart IN

    Whatever about Obama, here's my question: don't people feel like going from Bush to Hillary is going from one extreme to another? How is that going to unite a country or bring about positive change? I can't picture the Republicans in Congress listening to too much Hillary has to say, just like I can't picture the Democrats listening to too much Mitt Romney, or Rudy Giuliani have to say.

    Whoever gets in must be open-minded, and must put together a cabinet of people who don't share the same outlooks. I'm not saying form a cabinet of opposition, rather one where you can hear more than the typical advice.

    As for the Michelle Obama/ Bill Clinton debate. I think the odds are in Clintons favor, but I'm sure Obama has to have faith in his wife, and he probably knows her better than any of us. I haven't heard him make too many rash statements.

    October 18, 2007 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  24. Chris

    He is just saying that his wife, is smart.
    Hillary is just using bill Clinton.and another thing there no such thing as Inevitable.

    October 18, 2007 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  25. Steve, New York

    To suggest a bridge burning insult throwing wife could go toe to toe with one of the greatest well spoken public speakers of this generation is silly. All his wife has done throughout this entire campaign is insult the other candidates. Its funny Hillary and Bill are where in there lives and do not have to resort to insults. I wonder when the Obamas will get that the American people don’t want bickering we want people who can do a job as president, not the kid in the school yard saying “my daddy is stronger then your daddy neener neener neener”.

    October 18, 2007 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
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