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. Steven Stewart, Portland, Oregon

    So I want Obama as president, just not now. He doesn't have any real experience, he has ideas and promises, not progress. Hiliary may have failed do over come the blocks on her ideas, but that was a different time and a different context. She knows what is needed for a strong and postive leadership. Obama needs to gain more experience in order for him to implicate his ideas. Thus why cannont he just hop into the vice presidential postion and stop this stupid conflict. If he is going to do a good job as he says would he not want the longest impact? Clinton/Obama 08 people, think about its the most logical and it appeases most sides, save for Edwards people, but he find something to do.

    October 18, 2007 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  2. Korrey Detroit Mi

    Thought he was great. He is durely presidential to me.

    October 18, 2007 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  3. grace

    No nancy Pelosi...has anyone noticed she never mentions that the country has a woman as Speaker of the House...Number 3 in line to the Presidency...wonder why? I'm waiting for the poll that ask Americans would they be OK with 2 out of 3 of its leaders being a woman. Maybe that's why Hillary doesn't mention it. Doesn't want to remind people.

    CNN loves polls so much why not poll this...or is it you are afraid of the answer?

    October 18, 2007 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  4. J, Seattle, WA

    Ron Paul's on the Jay Leno Show the 31st! Get ready America!

    October 18, 2007 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  5. Mika, New York, NY

    Can I just reiterate what a few people have said already? This was a casual interview on The Tonight Show, a comedic, light hearted program. Why do Clinton supporters take Obama's comments so literally and seriously? It's all in good fun, folks. Let's remember that before jumping on the criticizing bandwagon.

    October 18, 2007 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  6. Matt, Boston, MA

    The people who post comments on this "political ticker" make me laugh each and every day. They can show fake outrage and blow a simple quote out of proportion like no other group of people I've ever seen. "Disgraceful comment" blah blah blah "disrespect will not win you votes" blah blah blah. God, can't a guy compliment his wife and make a joke without being criticized? It's not like he was on a comedy show or anything. This wasn't Meet the Press.

    October 18, 2007 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  7. stacey

    How far will Hillary be without BILL CLINTON.

    October 18, 2007 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  8. Jon, Sacramento ~ Ca

    Michelle Obama – wife of a State Legislator/ recently elected US Senator.


    Bill Clinton – Ark Govenor, 2-term President of the United States

    uh huh. And there is a chance our high school football team could beat USC but I wouldn't go on national TV and predict it!

    NI – EVE

    October 18, 2007 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  9. The Marshal, Wichita, Kansas

    Obama would make a great Veep running mate for Hillary!

    October 18, 2007 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  10. Keri, Chciago, IL

    How about if we all realx! This was a man making a joke out of a joke. It is called a sense of humor! For us to take what Mr Obama said seriously about his is, is us being DUMB!!! Relax! This was a man simply saying his wife is a tough cookie.... I remember another tough cookie lady who's husband was running for President and he won! Now...look who is running for President!

    October 18, 2007 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  11. pam Eugene, OR

    Come on people...get a grip! This is a late night talk/comedy show not Meet the Press. The HRC supporters are so hyper sensitive. I guess they know Shrillary needs a ton of their blind support to try and make us forget her "flawed background". Do you really want them back in our WH stealing the furniture and silverware?
    I pick honor and truth.
    Obama 08

    October 18, 2007 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  12. Arshad, Newburgh, New York

    I love Bill Clinton as a President. He was a great communicator and smart strategist. But it's also true that his popularity, to a large extent, is based on being at right place at the right time. He was lucky to be presiding over a time, when American Economy was at the peak in the history. Did he create that situation or 23 million new job or a rising stock market that people saw their net worth rising? NOT at all. This is what happened:

    1) A number of new technologies like telecommuncation, fiber optic, wireless, internet and computing have emerged with a profound impact on business and economy.

    2) Usage of IT technologies improved production efficiency driving costs lower and profit higher.

    3) Growth of new technologies and higher profit margin and existing business drove continued investment creating jobs and providing more tax revenue to government.

    4) As a result, unemployment went down, income went up and federal deficit went down and eventually became a surplus.

    5) Growth of new IT economy and better profitability of existing companies drove stock price higher and people saw a steady climb of Dow Jones and Nasdaq driving their net worth higher.

    6) Clinton became president right after the collapse of soviet union and communist countries in East Europe. The world was adjusting to post cold war era. US emerges as the sole Super power. Except crisis in Balkan, there was no significant internation crisis that Clinton had to deal with.

    During his second term, he had to deal with scandal, impeachment, investigations. Democrats lost control of congress. Clinton lost support of opposition and got nothing done. But since economy in general inside home was in great shape and there was no major international issues involving US i.e. lives of people were not impacted, he still is considered as a popular president. If you think hard, except balancing the budget (that too has more to do with a growing economy than his policy and it statred in Reagan's time), an attempt to a probable solution in Israel-Palestine conflict there is no significant accomplishment that Clinton can claim as his own.

    Now the lost opportunities during Clinton Era:

    1) With a strong economy and Democrat controlled congress, he failed to deliver universal healthcare. One of the reason US companies are uncompetitive in global market is the higher cost of labor which also include higher healthcare cost. In addition to the moral imperative of covering all Americans, lower cost in healthcare would have helped preventing off-shore outsourcing of American jobs on the ground of cheaper labor.

    2) Failure to promote an aggressive plan for energy independence and failure to raise fuel efficiency. When Asian companies developed more fuel efficient cars, American companies made gas guzzling SUVs. Over time it made US companies more uncompetitive in auto market. They lost market share to foreign auto makers, closed plants, lost jobs and billions and increased dependence on foreign oil. US lost economic edge and compromised national security.

    Clinton's failure on delivering those strategic issues are still causing American people suffer everyday. But again, he was a good communicator, a nice looking man with a sweet smile and a happy electorate due to growing economy made him a popular guy. He din't create his popularity, the situation he was in did that. He was one lucky guy. But it would be wrong to assume that he had a magic switch which he will hand over to Hillary and history will repeat itself will be a naive assumption.

    October 18, 2007 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  13. Justin, New York NY

    It was an appearance on Jay Leno people, some you Hilary supporters and G.O.Pers should really lighten up.

    All that aside, Senator Obama came off very very well, this new phase of his campaign should be very interesting.

    October 18, 2007 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  14. Erik

    Obama in 08! Hillary supporters like to jump on anything this man says. Obama is best for president!

    October 18, 2007 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  15. Chubton, San Diego

    Most readers seem to be misinterpreting the comment.
    It’s not mudslinging, which most Americans seek from their politicians, but a comment on how much he cherishes his wife.
    He has to go home to her, so it’s in his best interest to say she’s the best.
    If Bill had expressed the same commitment in his wife, he would probably have gone down as the best President of our time.
    Instead, he showed that he can ‘look you in the eye’ and coldly lie to your face.
    And that is why moral values became the issue which began King Bush’s reign.

    October 18, 2007 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  16. Ron, TX

    Listen to all you people! Heaven forbid a man stand up for his wife! She graduated from Princeton with honors, and then graduated from Harvard Law. I know all you blind Clinton fans think Bill is the best thing since sliced bread, but to act like he's an intellectual demi-god is just funny.

    He was asked a question about who he'd favor in a debate. His wife IS a VERY smart lady. Everyone's just used to husbands pushing around their wives like Bill Clinton used to do with Hill. I respect Obama 100% for choosing his wife over someone else in a debate.

    October 18, 2007 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  17. Howard, Huntington, NY

    Wow, there sure is a lot of outrage here for comments made on a comedy show. Heaven forbid that someone make a joke on the Tonight Show...

    October 18, 2007 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  18. Kim, Sacramento, CA

    As I read some of these comments, and others posted on the ticker, I see why this country is having problems.

    Hello people – Obama was playing – having fun – making light! He was in no way disrespecting President Clinton.

    Obama is the hope for the future. If the Democrats nominate Hillary the Republicans WILL beat her and this country will be in a world of hurt.

    Respect this country – vote Obama.

    October 18, 2007 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  19. Brad, Menlo Park CA

    There is no doubt in my mind that Senator Obama will be victorious come February.

    October 18, 2007 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  20. Bradley Schaubs, Greeley, CO

    CNN, I would appreciate it if you could provide a link to the polls that say Hillary is in the lead. Otherwise, I think you're showing bias towards Hillary.

    And don't let the polls discourage you, Obama supporters. Obama's fundraising is far more effective than Hillary's ever will be. She takes loans from criminals and big business – something Obama doesn't do.

    Clinton has begun celebrating too early. This could be her high-water mark. It will be short-lived.

    October 18, 2007 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  21. Coach Haughton NH

    This guy goes on leno, tells a couple jokes, and the prisoners of Hillaryland
    come out of the woodwork to bash him.

    As for president my first priority is Honesty.

    Obama 2008!

    October 18, 2007 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  22. Lyn - Dallas, Texas

    Obama's wife up against Clinton. She isn't as smart as Clinton – no way can she go head-to-head with Clinton – she would
    die in the dust. Dumb compared to him.

    Oh and yes, I wouldn't vote for anyone with a name like his. American names – he is a fool to have kept that name – I would have changed it. And what is wrong with the bible...I tell you - this country is doomed if we keep being politically correct.

    October 18, 2007 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  23. Lilian Ny Ny

    The Decider,

    From the way you talk you sound as if you do want whats best fro this country but with all do respect I feel your wrong. Forget for a second that Hilary is a woman. Now think of her as a regular candidate. All those things that you mentioned , you should read up on. Why did her health care reform fail? Because that would mean higher taxes being as the country is already spending an insane amount of money over seas. Voting for the Iraq war...not a mistake either. During that time everyone was willing to "defend our country. If she would've voted against people would've shunned her, or accused her of not being a true American. I can go on with how incorrect you are. I suggest you read up instead of just stating opinions.

    October 18, 2007 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  24. Thomas, Chicago, IL

    One of the posters here apparently has bought into the stertotype of African-American women being uneducated and unsophisticated. Allow me to enlighten you...
    (From the campaign website)
    [Michelle Obama] graduated from Whitney M. Young Magnet High School in Chicago's West Loop. After high school Michelle went on to Princeton University where in 1985 she graduated with a B.A. in sociology and a minor in African American studies. After college, Michelle continued her education at Harvard Law School, where she earned her degree in 1988
    OF COURSE SHE CAN DEBATE-SHE'S A LAWYER!! That's what they're trained to do!! Even at HARVARD!
    BTW-Whitney M. Young Magnet High School in Chicago is one of the best high schools in the Chicago area. Admission is competitive. So next time, before making assumptions, get your facts straight!!

    October 18, 2007 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  25. Jessica, Wisconsin

    Obama is proud of his wife and thinks she can hold her own. There's nothing wrong with that. Of course he's biased towards her – just like Bill is biased towards Hillary.

    October 18, 2007 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
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