Persistent rumours that Michelle Obama is preparing to oust Joe Biden and run for president have been described as “pure lunacy” – but punters aren’t convinced.
For several months, as concerns about Mr Biden’s health, mental fitness and energy levels have ramped up, so too has talk of potential replacements should he drop out.
Just one name keeps popping up, and it’s not that of Vice President Kamala Harris.
A bombshell column in The New York Post by Cindy Adams last month claimed former President Barack Obama has been quietly speaking to potential donors on behalf of his wife, and claimed a plot to sub her in would be enacted in May.
Former Fox News host Megyn Kelly added fuel to the fire, pointing to an interview given by the former First Lady, in which she spoke of her fears that Donald Trump might be re-elected, as a possible clue.
“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.’”
Punters seem convinced that changes is afoot, splashing some serious cash on Ms Obama running for president.
US betting markets have her as the most likely person to step up should Mr Biden step down, while Aussie bookmaker Betfair saw a $3 swing on her odds, from $14 to $11, suggesting a big flow of money.
Bruce Wolpe, who served as an adviser to Democrats in Congress, is a former media executive and worked with Prime Minister Julia Gillard, rubbished the speculation.
“This insipid, stupid ‘rumour’ has no basis whatsoever and it is a complete waste of time to even speculate on it much less discuss it seriously,” Mr Wolpe, a non-resident senior fellow at the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, said.
“It is unworthy of any attention whatsoever.”
Of a similar view is prominent Republican strategist Karl Rove, who characterised the talk as “pure lunacy” and said the same rumours emerged years ago during Mr Trump’s re-election bid in 2020.
“They thought somehow or another, Biden was going to be pushed aside by Obama, Andrew Cuomo was going to be the Democratic candidate, and his running mate was going to be Michelle Obama,” Mr Rove told Fox News.
“And, you know, I told the other Trump people, including the president himself, this is sheer [and] utter lunacy, starting with the fact she hates politics, period. She loves the life she’s got.”
While it’s possible Mr Biden will bow out, Mr Rove reiterated that there’s no chance of another Obama presidency.
“No, look, she hates politics,” he said. “You read her autobiography. She didn’t want her husband to run for the state Senate. She didn’t want him to run for the presidency. She is not a political animal.”
A damning report by Special Counsel Robert Huron on Mr Biden’s handling of classified documents last week has raised fresh concerns about his health and wellbeing in the lead-up to the election.
And a growing number of Democrats are worried about their chance in a Biden-Trump rematch.
Mr Huron’s conclusion about the president’s conduct made reference to his “hazy” memory, which included an inability to remember the year his vice presidency ended and when his son Beau died.
Republican presidential hopeful Vivek Ramaswamy, who ended his longshot campaign in January, believes there’s weight in the speculation about Ms Obama’s political future.
“It’s looking increasingly like it’s not going to be Biden as the nominee,” Mr Ramaswamy told Fox News.
“And I think that it should not be shocking to see someone like Michelle Obama take the role of the nomination. I think [the Huron report] is one more step in that direction.”
One issue the Democrats would need to overcome is Kamala Harris, Mr Biden’s vice president, who would otherwise be the natural successor.
“But that vice president is unable, I think, to effectively carry forward that job,” Mr Ramaswamy said, citing her flat popularity rating among voters.
In the past, Ms Obama has staunchly ruled out ever running for public office, saying she has no interest in that kind of political life.
Former Obama campaign manager David Axelrod said he “would be floored” if the sensational rumours turned out to be true.
“Here’s what I know – Michelle Obama loves this country,” Mr Axelrod told CNN.
“She’s a brilliant person and a brilliant communicator. But she was a conscript to politics. She was never interested in a political life.
“Even when Barack Obama was a young politician, she really didn’t participate much in his campaigns. I was with him in a Senate campaign in 2004 – I think she showed up twice in the whole campaign on election nights.
“So, you know, she is not someone who likes politics. She doesn’t like the tone and tenor of politics. And I would be floored if she would be consent to that.
“They feel that they gave 10 years of their life to this. And I’m sure she feels as Barbara Bush did when she said there has to be someone other than the Bush’s and the Clintons who could be President of the United States. My guess is that’s her attitude.”
To drive home his views, Mr Axelrod said that he had “as much chance of dancing in the Bolshoi Ballet” as Ms Obama becoming president.