Chatting with a group backstage on the set of Jimmy Kimmel Live! in October, Michelle Obama made it clear that she wasn’t thinking about what she might do in the future. “I’m just looking ahead to getting Barack back in office and continuing the work he’s been doing,” she said. “Supporting him is my focus.”

But others think the first lady—who spent the past four years seeking to better the lives of military families and fighting to end childhood obesity before becoming one of the stars of her husband’s reelection effort this fall—could have bigger things ahead of her, if she so chooses. “Michelle is Superwoman. What can’t she do?” Samuel L. Jackson recently told Newsweek. “That’s why people love her. She can be on the Supreme Court and anywhere else she wants. She can be the president. She’s history and she’ll stay history because she is so amazingly smart and together.”

Jackson isn’t the only person thinking along these lines. “I’d love to see her get more into politics because it would be a breath of fresh air in D.C.,” says Democratic Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina. “She’s honest and straightforward, which is not what you see in Washington much. She is exactly what we need around here.”

Yet therein lies the contradiction of Michelle Obama: a woman who is perhaps one of the most skilled politicians of our time seems to have little interest in pursuing politics herself. “Nothing she’s done indicates she wants more power on the national or international front,” says Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. “Yet everyone else says she has to have it.”

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