Early in the 2008 race, pundits liked to muse that once in office, President Hillary Clinton could appoint the engaging young black guy from Illinois to the Supreme Court. And there has always been a notion among the chattering classes that Obama-who logged more than a decade teaching constitutional law at the University of Chicago-is better suited temperamentally for the judiciary than the executive branch. A devout wonk and nuanced thinker who occasionally betrays disdain for the political process, Obama could use a judgeship to retreat from partisan warfare while still maintaining influence. And given his talent for strong prose, his written opinions could quickly become greatest hits for the law-school set. So could the Supremes one day welcome a Justice Obama?
"It's not a crazy idea," says Jeffrey Toobin, author of The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court. "There is a long history of elected officials being named to the Supreme Court ... and Obama himself has said he thinks that tradition should be revived."
There's a precedent: President William Howard Taft served as chief justice for nine years. But Obama's political experience doesn't make confirmation a sure bet. "The process is so partisan, he doesn't have the traditional qualifications, and you know Republicans are out to get the guy," says Toobin.
Of course, Obama would have to wait for another Democrat to occupy the Oval Office before he appeared on any shortlists (most likely to replace liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg). But even in 2017, he'd still be young enough to give decades to the court. After all, he's stopped smoking.
Annual Earnings: $213,900
Likelihood: Long shot