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#Oprah2020: What are her chances?

#Oprahforpresident and #Oprah2020 hashtags erupted after Winfrey’s speech at the Golden Globes. But is she really interested and exactly how realistic are her prospects for the White House for 2020?


With a booming speech at the Golden Globe Awards, Oprah Winfrey, the billionaire media entrepreneur and former television talk-show host, launched a thousand fantasies for Democrats: Of a historic campaign to put a black woman in the White House. Of a celebrity candidate, known for her big-hearted optimism, taking on a reality-show president defined by his thirst for combat. Of a presidency, some joked, where everybody would get a car.

Why are Democrats so excited about Winfrey?

With no obvious front-runner for the 2020 campaign, Democrats appear likely to spend the next few years grinding through internal dissent over policy. There are thorny disagreements in the party about how bluntly liberal its agenda should be, how boldly to confront President Donald Trump and how to win over disaffected Republicans and independents. In the imagination of some Democrats, Winfrey might offer an easy way out of those problems. Having made a career out of preaching the values of empowerment, she represents in some ways a natural counterpoint to Trump’s proud pugilism. And Winfrey’s most potent appeal, industry analysts say, is among somewhat older consumers with women over 55 as her strongest cohort. She is especially popular among African-American women and white suburban women, two groups Democrats will rely on in the 2018 and 2020 elections.

Is everybody on board?

David Axelrod, former chief strategist for Barack Obama, questioned whether Winfrey would be the right fit for 2020: “Would she want to submit herself to the unforgiving, relentless and sometimes absurd process of running for president? Will there be hunger in 2020 for someone without some experience in government, after Trump?” Some Democrats expressed frustration about the swirl of fascination with Winfrey. Rebecca Katz, a Democratic strategist from the party’s progressive wing, said it would be a mistake for Democrats to rush toward a magnetic personality. “Other than ‘we all get a car,’ what will an Oprah presidency look like?” she added, referring to when Winfrey famously gave a car to every audience member at her show.

Why has the public suddenly woken up to Winfrey?

Winfrey’s sudden prominence in national political imagination speaks to the merging of politics and entertainment in the American mind. She has occupied a singular role in the television industry. Gallup polling regularly finds Winfrey among the country’s most admired women, alongside Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama. Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader, suggested that Winfrey was the kind of political outsider Democrats might embrace. Alluding to Trump’s lack of experience, Pelosi said Winfrey had other qualities going: “Oprah has read books. She knows how to identify talent. If we’re going into a place where they are devaluing experience, you might as well have somebody who knows what they don’t know and would get the best possible people there.”

Is she really interested?

Winfrey has recently taken on political topics as a special correspondent for CBS News’ 60 Minutes, including a segment on the country’s political divisions and another on the use of solitary confinement in prisons. But even to close friends and admirers, the prospect of an Oprah 2020 race appeared far-fetched or impossible as recently as last year. After Trump’s inauguration, when the traditional barriers to entry into presidential politics appeared to melt away, Winfrey’s associates dismissed the idea. But after her speech on Sunday, CNN reported that she was actively thinking about a run, citing two of her close friends. Winfrey herself has said in the past she is not interested in running for president, but the Los Angeles Times quoted Stedman Graham, Winfrey’s partner in business and life, as saying: “It’s up to the people … She would absolutely do it.”

How has Trump reacted to Oprah for president?

Trump would gladly face Oprah Winfrey as an opponent in the 2020 presidential race, the White House said. “We welcome the challenge, whether it be Oprah Winfrey or anybody else,” Hogan Gidley told reporters on Air Force One during a flight to Nashville. “We welcome all comers.” After Trump won the White House in 2016 with help from his fame as a reality TV star, it no longer seems far-fetched to consider a similar campaign by Winfrey. But she would likely face a crowded field in the Democratic primaries in the 2020 race.

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