Presidents and first ladies often step up the pace of international travel in the second term. But it seems unlikely that Obama could make such a pivot just yet, with the U.S. public still so concerned about the economy, unemployment and government spending.
One option would be to send Mrs. Obama abroad in his place.
The first lady is popular overseas and has been well-received outside the U.S., including in India, where she accompanied the president in 2010, and in Mexico, also in 2010, and in South Africa and Botswana in 2011, the only countries she has visited alone as first lady.
She and Vice President Joe Biden‘s wife, Jill, traveled together to Haiti after the massive earthquake there in January 2010.
Mrs. Obama also went to Spain in the summer of 2010 on a personal trip with friends and daughter Sasha, but her stay at a luxury resort on the Costa del Sol wasn’t well-received back home, raising questions about the cost and wisdom of taking such a trip during tough economic times.
Laura Bush pursued a grueling foreign travel schedule during George W. Bush’s second term. She visited 77 countries in eight years as first lady, including with the president, but 67 of those trips came during the second term, including solo stops in Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia, according to Anita McBride, her then-chief of staff who runs American University’s first ladies program.
Hillary Rodham Clinton also traveled abroad extensively during Bill Clinton’s second term.
RUN FOR PUBLIC OFFICE
Will she or won’t she? Despite Mrs. Obama’s many denials of interest in seeking elected office herself, the question keeps getting asked. A recent survey found her to be more popular than Mark Kirk, the Republican senator from her home state of Illinois, in a hypothetical matchup.
“I have no interest in politics. Never have, never will,” the first lady said last year on ABC’s “The View.”
But even those who at one time say “never” can later change their minds.
Hillary Clinton gave the same answer in 1995 when asked if she’d ever run for public office, says Myra Gutin, who studies first ladies at Rider University. But five years later, as her husband’s presidency was ending, there was Clinton campaigning across New York for a Senate seat.
She won, used her time in the Senate as a springboard for her 2008 presidential campaign but lost the Democratic nomination to Barack Obama. She became his secretary of state but is departing soon amid feverish speculation that she will run for president in 2016.
Mrs. Obama will be young — 53 years old — when her husband leaves office in January 2017, and will have a range of options ahead of her. Friends say she has always believed there are ways to serve the country without running for office.
Look for the first lady to continue to be a fashion trendsetter. Everything from her hair to her clothes is scrutinized, with some clothing pieces selling out quickly after she’s seen wearing them.
Her new bangs became the talk of this town immediately after she went public with them on her 49th birthday, a few days before the president began his second term. Even the president said his wife’s haircut was “the most significant event” of inaugural weekend and gave his approval.
Mrs. Obama also won largely positive reviews for her inaugural wardrobe: Reed Krakoff and Thom Browne by day, and Michael Kors and Jason Wu by night. Wu designed her red chiffon and velvet ball gown. He also designed the white ball gown she wore four years ago.
She also has a new presence on Twitter — (at)FLOTUS.