Speculation is mounting that former First Lady Michelle Obama is preparing to run to be President of the United States, in a move that involves convincing an ailing Joe Biden to step down.
And a prominent conservative figure believes such a plot might just succeed.
While some have described the talk of Ms Obama becoming president as fanciful, a growing legion of Democratic strategists are reportedly eager for the rumoured plan to come to fruition.
Recent appearances by Mr Biden, who turned 81 at the end of last year, have only raised concerns about his health and energy leading into what’s expected to be a fierce election.
And a run of dire polling shows he’s on track to be defeated by former President Donald Trump, the likely Republican candidate.
A bombshell column in the New York Post by Cindy Adams last week claimed former President Barack Obama has been quietly speaking to potential donors on behalf of his wife.
Adams cites sources as saying the plan being crafted is for Mr Biden to announce in May that he’s not running, citing health concerns.
By the time the Democratic Convention rolls around in August, the ground will be set for Ms Obama to be nominated as the presidential candidate, she speculates.
In a separate report in the Post, it’s further claimed Ms Obama met with hedge fund CEOs as far back as mid-2022 to sound out financial support, allegedly saying: “I am running, and I am asking for your support.”
In the past, Ms Obama has consistently ruled out any intention of entering politics, but a recent podcast interview has some wondering if her stance has changed.
The former First Lady sat down with author Jay Shetty for his podcast On Purpose and admitted she’s “terrified” about the upcoming election.
“What’s going to happen in this next election? I’m terrified about what could possibly happen, because our leaders matter.
“Who we select, who speaks for us, who holds that bully pulpit, it affects us in ways sometimes I think people take for granted.
“The fact that people think that government — ‘eh, does it really even do anything?’ — and I’m like: ‘Oh my God, does government do everything for us, and we cannot take this democracy for granted.’ And I worry sometimes that we do. Those are the things that keep me up.”
Former Fox News star Megyn Kelly pointed to those comments as curious, given the expectation is that she’d confidently back Mr Biden’s chances.
“She has nothing to promote,” Kelly said on her podcast The Megyn Kelly Show. “She has no book, she has no event, so that means she called them and said: ‘I have something to say.’”
Kelly too said she’d heard persistent rumours about a potential run but is “sceptical” it would come off.
But if it did and the next election was a race between Ms Obama and Mr Trump would be “a whole new ball game”.
This isn’t the first time that rumours about Ms Obama’s political aspirations have emerged.
In August last year, British journalist Tim Stanley from The Telegraph wrote about a conversation between a source and an unnamed foreign politician.
“It emerged that their government assumes Joe Biden will not be the Democratic nominee in 2024. Joe will pull out before the first primaries; it will be too late for a grassroots candidate to enter the fray; an establishment stooge will be crowned at the convention.
“And the name of that lucky winner? Michelle Obama. It’s a wild scenario, but if it does happen, please remember that you read it here first.”
Could she win?
During her time in the White House as First Lady, Ms Obama was an incredibly popular figure who was seen as a “weapon” by Democratic strategists, Kelly reflected.
She regularly graced magazine covers and appeared on talk shows to support her husband’s policy platforms, as well as her own projects, like education, military families, children’s nutrition and general healthy eating.
Since the Obamas left politics, she has busied herself with a string of media initiatives, from a best-selling book to a hit podcast and even producing Netflix specials.
Former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, who was fired by the network in 2017 over revelations he’d paid tens of millions of dollars in confidential settlements to women who accused him of sexual harassment, rates Ms Obama’s chances.
In his podcast, O’Reilly said she is “the only one” among Democrats “who could beat” Mr Trump.
A wild fantasy
Thomas Gift, Director of the Centre on US Politics at the University College London said the talk about Ms Obama swooping in sounded like “the stuff of Liberal fantasies”.
A look at increasingly bleak polling indicates why some might be hoping that dream comes true.
A Reuters/Ipsos poll released late last week is the latest to show presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump leading Mr Biden by six points.
For several weeks, countless other polls have shown the pair to be neck-and-neck or Mr Trump narrowly ahead.
An ABC News poll published in mid-January found 70 per cent of Republican voters would be satisfied with Mr Trump as their party’s nominee.
That same poll found just 57 per cent of Democrats felt the same about Mr Biden.
And worse, his overall approval rating has now slumped to 33 per cent – the worst recorded for a sitting president in 15 years.
“Biden had plenty of opportunities to gracefully ride into the sunset,” Mr Gift wrote in analysis for The Conversation.
“He could have said that he’d accomplished everything he set out to accomplish. He could have cited his desire for a rising generation to be represented in politics.
“Now, it seems, there’s no turning back.”
However, he notes that “many allies privately and publicly worry” that Mr Biden risks not only overstaying his welcome but “passing the baton to his twice-impeached rival” whom he “pillories as an existential threat to democracy”.
The chances of Mr Biden bowing out seem slim, if not entirely wild, he concluded.
Wild, yes, Stanley agreed in his piece, but less and less so as the circus that is American politics rolls on.
“As for the suggestion that her overnight nomination would be too fantastical, too Hollywood – has our sense of the ‘possible’ not been radically expanded by Donald Trump?” he wrote.
“Mrs Obama’s opponent would be spending much of the election cycle in court. There is no ‘normal’ anymore in US politics.”