Oprah’s Gamble On Obama: the gift that will keep on giving …


scaling campaign heights without protective gear.

Oprah Winfrey: scaling campaign heights without protective gear.

When Oprah said she was “feeling Obama”, the country should have believed her. But what she did with that was clearly a gamble. However seventeen months later the gamble is beginning to look more and more like a gift, and one that will keep on giving long after the dust settles on this fractious election. The upshot?: The queen of talk was onto something before the rest of the country caught on. Americans love winners and ….. and people who back them.

The talk about Oprah being being appointed U.S. Ambassador to Britain is as premature as it is misplaced. The payoff has more to do with fingering a real contender, win or lose.

At the time of Oprah’s endorsement on 5/1/07, Oprah did not convince a lot of people, beyond her fans that is. And even among her fans, she did alienate a few, beyond ruffling a few feathers on the right of the political spectrum. Leaving her customary soap box was a huge financial gamble and a bit of a stretch. The sight of her trying to rile up the masses from the height of a campaign podium felt, looked and sounded strange, on so many levels. Her stamp of approval of Obama did not the convince fence sitters. Her preoccupation with self-help fads and the culture of confession as therapy, swelled the ranks of those who were skeptical about her. Her new age leanings and the substance, if not the demographics, of her book club did similar damage to her credibility. Some people remembered Oprah’s mawkish endorsement of James Frey’s “A Million Pieces” which, on short order, turned to be as bogus as Jayson Blair’s New York Times reports. And as L.A. Times reader B. J. put it, “Her embrace of “The Secret” and the “New Age Jesus” writings of Eckhart Tolle … alienated religious conservatives.”

So the long and short of it is that while Oprah’s endorsement unquestionably helped Obama, it did little to persuade fence-sitters. The only dent in this wall of skepticism was the Democratic National Convention of 2004, when the lanky Senator had made a ringing speech that electrified the country and forced many Democrats and Republicans alike to sit up and take notice. In other words, Obama was Obama before Oprah met Obama. What Oprah did with her endorsement and the 2008 election approaching, was make people put an mental stick-it note next to the name of Barak Obama. Time Magazine took note and queries about Obama on Google sky-rocketed.

The primary/caucus season lent credence to Oprah’s choice and more recent polls are cumulatively chiselling it into stone. The country is witnessing the emergence of a political rock star the likes of which has not been seen since John Fitzgerald Kennedy, and Oprah’s name is tatooed somewhere on his arm.

Barack Obama Superstar - Before est. 75 thousand people, Portland, OR on  May 18, 2008

Barack Obama Superstar- Portland, OR on May 18, 2008

“It is entirely possible that no one could have beaten the political force known as Barack Obama — under any circumstances.” (Kathleen Parker, conservative political columnist, Washington Post)

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