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. Jessica, Wisconsin

    Have you guys seen this? Seems that Hillary is holding a "Rural Americans for Hillary" lunch. The real story though is where she is going to be holding this lunch. At the lobbying firm Troutman Sanders Public Affairs – they lobby for Monsanto. Just great! I'm sure rural farmers everywhere will love this.


    October 18, 2007 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  2. stacey

    Bill is not biased toward Hillary.Bill was the best President in the last 20 years. she is using him and his machine. but the race is not over and there are alway upsets look at sports.

    October 18, 2007 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  3. nate

    Good article, bad headline on CNN's part. Without a doubt I feel he would succeed well, he doesn't need experience in washington to be a good president, he has the experience of a human being. That's all you need.

    October 18, 2007 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  4. Bernard, Scotch Plains NJ

    OBAMA is the MAN! KUDUS!!! Great Interview last night, absolutely LOVED IT!

    October 18, 2007 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  5. Keith, Chicago


    The fact that you think Obama makes "flowery speeches filled with vague political promises" makes it blatantly obvious that you have never seen or listened to any of his speeches. It's apparent that your opinion of Obama is based on mainstream media headlines and fluff articles (particularly CNN) that don't mention the specifics of candidates speeches and policies but only use sound bytes – many of which that are taken out of context.

    Since you seem so genuinely concerned about the specifics on what Obama would do if elected, I am including a link for Obama's policies/plans when he becomes president:


    Telling it like I see it,

    October 18, 2007 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  6. Danny G. Boca Raton, FL

    I believe that Leno was trying to put him on the spot and Sen. Obama took the bait, no one should question him for believing in his wife, what is distasteful is that he made the comments, he knows he is behind on the polls (some 25+ points on average) so he is getting desperate... too sad that in politics even the best and brightest can stand so low at times. the "mission accomplish" is cute, but he needs to remember who's party he belongs to and trying to paint his fellow democrat candidate(Sen. Clinton) as a close-minded Republican may come back and bite him one day. too negative Sen. Obama and shame on you for letting Leno corner you like that.

    October 18, 2007 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  7. D. Davis, Weston, OH

    Obama says something stupid every day. His appearance on Leno's show was no exception.

    October 18, 2007 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  8. JB, Okland

    Obama was so comfertable and clear last night in his interview with Leno. Compare that the the drivel that GWBush spewed at his press conference yesterday.

    October 18, 2007 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  9. Mark, Palo Alto, CA

    One of the posters has apparently bought into th stereotype that an ivy league education translates to a good public speaker. Bush graduated from Yale so I don't think I have to say anymore.

    To put Obama's wifes oratory skills in the same category as Bill Clinton's is ridiculous.

    Also, there are hundreds of Ivy League graduates prodcuced every year but only a few Rhodes Scholar's (and only one President every 4-8 years).

    October 18, 2007 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  10. Franky, New York, NY

    OK...now's he getting silly. Not only is he looking desperate, but he's also increasing delusional.

    He'll make a great President some day...just not before Hillary!

    Go Hil!

    October 18, 2007 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  11. Coach Haughton NH

    You know tis blatant bias toward the clintons might be why FOX consistantly murders you guys in ratings.

    October 18, 2007 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  12. monica, rochester new york

    Nice interview Senator Obama. A man that loves and respects his wife, what a great quality in a President. Obama has a terrific sense of humor, unlike some of the posters on this site. Anyway it's ludicrous to presume just because somebody was the President they are automatically smarter than everyone else...unfortunately our current President and several past have proven that not to be the case. If you have an intelligent spouse why not put your money on them winning!! Some of you are taking an otherwise sweet remark and turning it ugly.

    October 18, 2007 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  13. Neill C., Montgomery, Al

    Bill is more than a match politically for Obama's wife. Hillary, on the other hand, while the front runner, is one of the least qualified ever to run for President. Her 1st health plan was a failure, she does not support letting the citizens decide to use our own money in a 401K but yet proposes having a government 401K, her 2nd health plan is 10 pages and she's "let Congress fill it out" – Yeah, can't wait for that, she constantly is saying she will "take money from people and business for the good of the community", she claims she didn't know Bill was cheating on her when everyone in the wolrd knew it, she has three different stories on what she will do with the troops in Iraq, she has never met a tax increase she didn't like although it is a proven fact that the tax cuts increased tax revenues, etc.

    Tell me again why she is such a strong candidate?

    October 18, 2007 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  14. karen, Miami Gardens, Florida

    OABAMA 08! Fired up and ready to go.

    October 18, 2007 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  15. Anonymous

    It's amazing how beside ourselves we have become. He has a smart wife, congratulations. Is she smart enought to get into Oxford. Greenspan who is no slouch when it comes to brains said Bill Clinton was our smartest president. I'm glad Barrack things so highly of himself. Make no mistake, by praising his wife, he says how smart am I to pick such a smart wife.

    October 18, 2007 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  16. Coach Haughton NH

    Oh Barack, you are her husband that's why! You know, naturally my husband will say: "My wife is splendidly brilliant, highly educated, stunningly beautiful, heavenly generous, loving and caring. If there is a debate between Michelle Abama and my wife, I am putting my money and blood on my lady!"

    What else?

    What a SHOCKER! A politician who loves and respects his wife, and DEMOCRATS like him.

    October 18, 2007 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  17. Keith, Chicago

    Wow – it amazes me how dumb some people on here as they aren't even able to figure out that Obama was obviously joking. Almost every Democrat, including Obama, knows that Bill Clinton is the best debater of our generation...and even many Republicans would concede this too. Leno asked him a silly/joking question and so of course, Obama responded with a silly/joking response. Yet, in repsonse to Obama's good-natured joke, people on here think he's "arrogant", "not very bright", and "desperate". How stupid are you people???

    And while Obama seriously doesn't think that his wife couldn't beat Bill Clinton in a debate, she is certainly no slouch herself. Graduating cum laude from Princeton, getting her law degree from Harvard, and accomplishing a large amount as a community activist in Chicago is pretty impressive in my book.

    October 18, 2007 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  18. Kubasu, Philadelphia, PA.

    Most of you who replied do not realize that Obama was on the TONIGHT SHOW. (A comedy show.) They were simply JOKING. Common, have some laughs and stop over-analyzing the comments.

    October 18, 2007 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  19. Bryan, Connellsville PA

    At this point, Hillary's increasing lead is due to nothing other than the fact that the American people love to support a winner, and Hillary simply looks like a winner. Contrary to this, I still believe that Obama is the better candidate for our Democratic party. I look forward to watching this race, and would love to see a Clinton/Obama ticket, or even better, an Obama/Clinton ticket.

    October 18, 2007 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  20. Alex

    I do really respect Obama and will like him to be the democratic party nominee but can anyone explain why Hillary is leading in all these polls?

    People keep saying the polls are not important but that is keys making Hillary looks like the better candidate.

    October 18, 2007 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  21. Jim Bremer

    Barak Hussein Obama kept Michelle in a burqa ( bee keeper outfit )all these years.

    Now he wants her to cast off the burqa and wear boxing gloves to spar with Bill Clinton ?!

    Too funny Barak (Burqa) Hussein Obsama !!

    October 18, 2007 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  22. Danny G. Boca Raton, FL

    Terry, Milford CT Thank you for the link to the Video, also by the way he clearly said "she doesn't play"
    so perhaps you didn't watch the video closely.

    October 18, 2007 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  23. Buggie, San Diego, CA

    Mr. Obama,

    Your reference to “Mission Accomplished” is sadly misleading to American voters. Not only has Mrs. Clinton never claimed that her mission was accomplished, she has made it clear that she does not run her campaign as if she has already won. Instead of a veiled reference to George Bush’s ridiculous claim, you should use Mrs. Clinton own words…Do not put words in her mouth and do not attempt to make a subconscious connection in the minds of voters between Mr. Bush and Mrs. Clinton.

    On 10/12 Mrs. Clinton stated “"I don't consider myself a frontrunner, I run as though I am 10 or 20 points behind and I am going to keep doing that. ... I just keep working as hard as I possibly can until the votes are counted." These are her words!

    You should make it clear to America that your quip was simply borne from your frustration and is in no way based in fact or based upon anything that Mrs. Clinton has stated. Get your facts straight and do not try to mislead voters. Americans are smarter than you think and they will easily see through your calculated prevarication.

    October 18, 2007 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  24. Davis, NJ

    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.

    Posted By Lilian Ny Ny : October 18, 2007 2:53 pm
    Lilian, that is precisely the point. Hillary voted to authorize a war without reading the national intelligence estimates or even asking how we'd get our troops out...rather she wanted to look tough and wanted to jump on the bandwagon to rush this country into a war that should never have been authorized. That's the epitome of bad judgement.
    Obama was right from the start. He spoke up when it was unpopular to speak up and he was RIGHT. SHE WAS NOT!!!
    I'd rather have a President who uses job judgement rather than a president who is trigger happy and follows the crowd because it is the popular thing to do.
    OBAMA '08

    October 18, 2007 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  25. Veronika, Spain

    Dear Barack
    when will you learn that saying somethin substancial will help you campaign more than just bashing the clintons?

    October 18, 2007 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
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