WASHINGTON — Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., is invoking first lady Michelle Obama as a possible 2016 opponent in a recent fundraising appeal, citing the “press and rumor mills” as his source — even though she has shown no interest in running for elected office.
It’s even doubtful President Barack Obama and the first family will immediately return to Chicago after leaving the White House, since youngest daughter Sasha will still be in high school here in January 2017, when a new president is sworn in.
Kirk’s fundraising ploy comes as the notion of Michelle Obama running for a Senate seat from Illinois surfaces occasionally — as it did in June — triggering Michelle Obama, the president White House Senior Adviser and friend Valerie Jarrett to shoot it down in interviews during the summer.
But in the world of political fundraising, denials about running for office don’t count for much because folks deny interest in running all the time and then they go and do it. Kirk’s letter uses the fundraising rule that it’s more effective to ask for money if there is someone big going after you.
As of June 30, Kirk’s main political fund reported having $1,419,695 cash-on-hand. No Illinois Democrat has shown any overt interest in taking on Kirk, though people keep mentioning U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., as a potential challenger.
Kirk’s main political problem right now is to avoid a Republican primary challenger coming at him from the right.
In a letter dated Sept. 5, Kirk wrote, “I’m not one to believe rumors or engage in political gossip, but when it comes to defending the Illinois Senate seat that I’m honored to hold, I take all potential threats seriously.
“. . . The press and rumor mills ponder the ‘will she or won’t she’ question with regard to Michelle Obama . . . and the circumstances (and denials) are reminiscent of 1999 when First Lady Hillary Clinton was the subject of whirlwind speculation about a run for the United States Senate.”
Former Secretary of State Clinton indeed did run for a Senate seat from New York while former President Bill Clinton was still in the White House. Illinois has an early March 2016 primary — petitions to get on the ballot would be due in 2015. So Michelle Obama would have to give up a lot of her final year at the White House to run, which she is not going to do.
I think by now there is enough on the record to see that she is not into being a candidate for anything.
On May 30, the president said on “Live With Kelly and Michael,” “One thing I can promise you is that Michelle will not run for office.”
On June 23, Michelle Obama was asked by ABC’s Robin Roberts what her “next act” will be, and she said, “it will not be political . . . it definitely will not be. It will be mission-based, it will be service-focused.”
On June 29, Jarrett, on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” was asked if the first lady was going to run for office. Jarrett’s reply: “Well, I’m absolutely 100 percent positive that that will never happen.”
OBERWEIS vs. DURBIN
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, a vice chairman of the Senate GOP political operation, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said Thursday he expects his organization will not be helping Illinois GOP Senate nominee Jim Oberweis because other 2014 races — with candidates who have a better chance of winning — have a priority.
While he had nothing much to say about Oberweis, who’s running against Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., he gushed over Illinois GOP gubernatorial nominee Bruce Rauner, whom he knows from their Dartmouth days.
Rauner graduated from Dartmouth in 1978; Portman in 1979. He said he and Rauner have talked about his race. As for Oberweis, Portman said, “I just don’t know him personally.”