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Michelle Obama for Senate in 2016: Is It Even a Rumor?

First lady Michelle Obama has been the subject of several stories about an Illinois Senate race. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)
First lady Michelle Obama has been the subject of several stories about an Illinois Senate race. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The Michelle Obama for Senate in 2016 stories are classic examples of an out-of-control media narrative that is based on little hard evidence.  

But it may also end up being a lesson on why it’s best not to dismiss rampant speculation.  

The rumor that the first lady could run for the Senate in Illinois next cycle appears to have started with a blog item by Keith Koffler at Reuters . And even though it doesn’t appear to be based on any sources, the story spread like a Justin Bieber mugshot across the Internet. “Speculation Builds on Michelle Obama Senate Run” is the headline of a subsequent NBCChicago story that doesn’t appear to cite any real sources either. The “build” is apparently referring to the flurry of stories talking about the Koffler’s column.  

Finally, a Breitbart story begins with , “Tongues are wagging in Chicago that First Lady Michelle Obama is warming up for a run…” But alas, the owners of the tongues are never mentioned.  

So, can we put the “Michelle for Senate” hypothetical to bed for good?  

I’m not ready to do that yet.  

It’s not because there is current discussion about it. The Democratic operatives who are focused on winning Senate races are focused on doing just that in 2014. And the relationship and communication between the White House and House and Senate Democratic operatives has never been amazing.  

“The White House certainly didn’t give a [damn] the last time the Illinois seat was vacant,” a Democratic strategist bluntly said about 2010, when President Barack Obama’s former seat, (the one Michelle might run for), fell into Republican hands in the first place.  

But, this winter, the attention will quickly turn to 2016. Illinois will be a key state in attempts made by Democrats to regain or expand their majority, depending on the outcome of this year’s elections. As good as the Senate map is for Republicans this year, the 2016 map is just as bad, or even worse, for the GOP . Sen. Mark S. Kirk of Illinois could be one of seven Republican senators running for re-election in a presidential year in states that President Obama won twice.  

The bottom line is that if Democratic strategists believe the first lady is the best candidate to defeat Kirk, they will likely make a push to get her to run.  

It may sound ridiculous, considering she would have to run during the last two years of her husband’s administration. But it wouldn’t be unprecedented. That is exactly what Hillary Clinton did as Bill Clinton was finishing his eight years in the White House. And unlike Hillary, Michelle was born and raised in Chicago and wouldn’t have to deal with the carpetbagging charges.  

The first lady is very popular, even more popular than her husband. She has the advantage of taking stances on non-controversial issues, such as fighting obesity, rather than wrestling with the concept of exchanging prisoners with a foreign enemy. But she’s probably not the only Democrat who could defeat Kirk in 2016.  

But at least one of the other potential candidates mentioned, Rep. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., demonstrated the ability to lose a high-profile race to a quality Republican candidate when she lost a race for the House in 2006 to now-Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Ill. Democrats might look for as close to a sure thing as possible.  

There is the minor issue that the first lady has shown no interest in being a candidate before. But it’s hard to believe that Barack Obama chose to challenge an incumbent Member of Congress in 2000, decided to start running for a 2004 Senate seat in 2002, and ran for President of the United States without Michelle’s blessing and support. The Obamas are a political family.  

And it wouldn’t be the first time that a candidate denied wanting to run all the way up to the point when they started running.