"Absolutely not." That was Michelle Obama's response when asked this spring if she would ever run for president. Indeed, the first lady has consistently denied any interest in holding office, even if polls show that she's more popular than her husband. As if to test her determination to stay on the political sidelines, the Democratic-leaning firm Public Policy Polling released a poll this week that shows Mrs. Obama leading Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) 51 to 40 in a hypothetical matchup. And there's more, says Justin Sink at The Hill:

The first lady is seen positively by six in 10 voters in the state, with just a third voicing a negative opinion. That far exceeds Kirk, who carries a 34 percent approval and 19 percent disapproval rating.

The first lady seems to have an almost visceral distaste for the scummy side of D.C. politics, and had reportedly been reluctant to even move into the White House. Yet no one watching her speech at the Democratic National Convention can deny that she's got the fire. Furthermore, if a credible candidate fails to put a hat in the ring, she may feel pressure to take one for the Democratic team.

One tricky aspect of running against Kirk, who is up for re-election in 2016, is that he suffered a stroke in January, putting him out of commission for nearly a year. He is expected to return to the Senate at the beginning of 2013.