What's next for Mrs Obama?


FIVE YEARS DOWN THE ROAD: Americans possibly should prepare for their first African-American woman president

Azman Abdul Hamid MICHELLE Obama. Who in the world doesn't know her by now? In fact, some suggest that  she could be a presidential candidate in future  elections in the United States.

The wife of President Barack Obama has even surpassed her husband in the popularity stakes, at least for now.

Women politicians are not exactly a new phenomenon since Indira Gandhi came to prominence in India some decades ago.

Since then, Margaret Thatcher, Benazir Bhutto, Begum Khaleda Zia, Sheikh Haseena Wajid, Corazon Aquino, Megawati Sukarnoputri, Michelle Bachelet, Yulia Tymoshenko, Joyce Banda, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Julia Gillard and Ying-luck Shinawatra have come into the scene, to name a few.

Michelle's speech last week at the Democratic National Convention has further enhanced her reputation as a very good speaker in her own right.

Not that she's a mystery to those who were in attendance or were watching on television, since Obama's victory four years ago, defeating the John McCain-Sarah Palin combo, upped her profile as well.

With more than 26 million watching her every utterance, that was an achievement in itself given that more people watched her than her husband.

Not to be outdone was rival wife in the presidential election campaign, Ann Romney, who was watched by some 22 million.

A first woman president might be good for the US, something to upstage Obama's record as the first African-American elected president.

So, how about the first African-American woman to be president? That would be something for the historians to ponder.

In the era of Facebook and Twitter, these channels of communication have helped leaders to spread the message to the masses much more easily.

The Obamas are participating, so too are our prime minister and wife and the leaders of many other countries.

But social media is a challenge, too, as perception can change in a matter of seconds depending on developments on the ground.

When Obama emerged victorious in the last election, Michelle knew what it takes to win.

And her four years in the White House put her in a unique position, allowing her to observe the challenges that have unfolded since then, the ones Obama must face in his current campaign.

However, precisely because of that knowledge, Michelle, and any other leaders who harbour the same ambition, might have second thoughts about competing for the prize.

First, one has to be noticed and then touted as a potential leader of the future in the party, Republican or Democrat.

Then, the nominee must compete with other aspiring and ambitious candidates to secure nominations from the party's hierarchy and influential members.

After that, the candidates who secure the nomination from both parties must meet head-on for the right to be proclaimed "Mr President" (or Mrs President).

Not that bad, right? Well, in between the attempt to get noticed, nominated and then successfully win the position are a host of other things to consider.

The most important is, how to deal with constant attention from the media, inside and outside the country.

Then, there's the endless meetings with party members, get-to-know-people sessions, what kind of messages for the day and for different locations and issues to be dealt with like foreign policy, abortion, religion, the lobbyists and campaign financing.

Obama had to face all these and more during his previous campaign for the party nomination against none other than his current secretary of state, Hillary Clinton.

Given that her husband, Bill Clinton, was a former president, Hillary herself was not short of experience in dealing with all manner of challenges during campaigning.

In fact, Obama's participation in the last campaign and, now, this one has brought the "birther" issue out in the open.

Until today, a segment of American society continues to believe that Obama's birth certificate is fake despite official validation.

It's like, "What, only now you know that your president is not born in Hawaii?" Something is wrong somewhere, eh?

The US presidential elections are tough on any candidate. There's always something we can learn, given that we ourselves are preparing for the general election. Here are some of the barbs thrown by Romney supporters against Obama:

"Our problem is not that he's a bad person. Our problem is that he's a bad president," Florida Senator Marco Rubio had said at the Republican National Convention last month.

Alluding to Obama, presidential opponent Mitt Romney, said in his speech: "You know there's something wrong with the kind of job he's done as president when the best feeling you had was the day you voted for him."

Well, here's what Obama said in return: "You didn't elect me to tell you what you wanted to hear. You elected me to tell you the truth."

While Michelle chipped in: "Success isn't about how much money you make, but rather the difference you make in people's lives."

Simple and honest words, indeed, and they resonated with viewers everywhere.

First Lady Michelle Obama addressing the Democrats Women’s Caucus during the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, last week. She has surpassed her husband in the popularity stakes. AP pic

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