Oprah in 2020? Allies send mixed messages on her future

As Democrats nationwide encourage Oprah Winfrey to seek the presidency in 2020, those closest to the media mogul are sending mixed messages about her political intentions.

Her best friend, CBS News host Gayle King, said Tuesday that Winfrey is “intrigued” by the idea of a White House bid.

“She loves this country and would like to be of service in some way, but I don’t think she’s actively considering it at this time,” King said, noting that she spoke to Winfrey at length the night before. “I also know that after years of watching the Oprah show, you always have the right to change your mind.”

On Monday, Winfrey’s longtime partner, Stedman Graham, told the Los Angeles Times that “it’s up to the people” whether she will be president, adding, “She would absolutely do it.”

The presidential buzz follows Winfrey’s impassioned call for “a brighter morning even in our darkest nights” at the Golden Globes on Sunday night in a speech that left some viewers contemplating the idea of the Democratic Party embracing a celebrity candidate of its own to challenge President Donald Trump in 2020. Trump, of course, was little more than a businessman-turned-reality-television-star before his extraordinary political rise.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., noted that Winfrey, like Trump, lacks any kind of governing experience.

“I think one of the arguments for Oprah is 45,” Pelosi said, referring to Trump in shorthand for the 45th president. “I think one of the arguments against Oprah is 45.”

Even so, for Democrats in early voting states, and perhaps for a public that largely disapproves of Trump’s job performance, the notion of a popular media figure as a presidential candidate is not as strange as it once seemed.

“Look, it’s ridiculous — and I get that,” said Brad Anderson, Barack Obama’s 2012 Iowa campaign director, who supports the idea of Winfrey running. “At the same time, politics is ridiculous right now.”

Winfrey’s speech as she accepted the Cecil B. DeMille lifetime achievement award touched on her humble upbringing and childhood wonder in civil rights heroes.

But it was her exhortation of the legions of women who have called out sexual harassers — and her dream of a day “when nobody has to say ‘me too’ again” — that got some influential political operatives thinking Winfrey might be just what the Democrats need. Her appeal extended well beyond her celebrity, some said, citing her compassion, kindness and devotion to helping others as a badly needed change after Trump.

“People need to have hope,” said Ray Buckley, chairman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, who encouraged the idea of an Oprah run. “If it means looking at one of these celebrities that have a moral core, that are compassion and intelligent, I think that people should look to where they can during these very, very difficult times.”

Even Trump’s daughter Ivanka endorsed Oprah’s message, if not a political future, in a tweet Monday. “Just saw @Oprah’s empowering and inspiring speech at last night’s #GoldenGlobes. Let’s all come together, women & men, & say #TIMESUP! #UNITED.”

Trump’s job approval rating sat at just 32 per cent in December, according to an Associated Press-NORC poll. And though polls show his approval up slightly since, Trump is the least popular first-year president on record. He has also been accused by multiple women of sexual misconduct, though he has vehemently denied the allegations.

Winfrey, in September and October, publicly dismissed the notion of seeking the nation’s highest office, though she noted that Trump’s victory made her rethink the requirements of the office.

The 64-year-old media mogul has become a cultural phenomenon over the past 30-plus years, born into a poor home in Mississippi but breaking through as a television news and talk show personality in the 1980s. Over 30 years, she became the face of television talk shows, starred and produced feature films, and began her own network.

Trump himself has lavished praise on Winfrey over the years, including in 2015, when he said that he would consider her as a running mate on his Republican ticket. “I’d love to have Oprah. I think we’d win easily, actually,” Trump told ABC News at the time.

Late-night show host Jimmy Kimmel said Monday that he preferred Winfrey to Trump.

“Given the choice between Oprah and our current president, I’m on the bus with Oprah travelling the country encouraging people to sign up and vote,” he said.

Some political operatives think she has what it takes to be a viable presidential contender.

“She would be a serious candidate,” said Jennifer Palmieri, former White House communications director under President Barack Obama and the communications director for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign.

Beyond her rise from poverty, Winfrey’s success as a multidimensional media figure has come from promoting ways for women to assert themselves, typically outside the political arena. That could soften what Palmieri describes as an enduring resistance among some voters to women with political ambition.

“I think lessons we all learned from watching Hillary’s run, and how her ambition was unfavourably and unfairly viewed, coupled with Oprah’s existing popularity, could give Oprah a strong start,” Palmieri said.

Just Posted

Red Deer hospital expansion advances to square one

Planning for future needs gets $1-million over five years

Divergent views on budget expressed by Red Deer school boards

Red Deer’s two school board chairs have opposite views on the provincial… Continue reading

Buffalo Lake residents voice opposition to proposed RV Resort

County of Stettler holds contentious Public Hearing on Paradise Shores RV Resort

Budget good for RDC, not so much Red Deer businesses

College can apply for more tech spots, but minimum wage is still going up

WATCH: Hundreds come to Red Deer Rebels Fan Fest

The Red Deer Rebels met with legions of their of fans just… Continue reading

Excavator frees dolphins trapped by pack ice in Newfoundland harbour

HEARTS DELIGHT, N.L. — A pod of dolphins trapped by pack ice… Continue reading

Structure fire destroys home in Mirror

A house in Mirror is completely damaged due to an overnight structure… Continue reading

Trudeau warns senators not to thwart will of Canadians on marijuana bill

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is reminding senators that his government… Continue reading

Burgers outselling classic baguette sandwiches in France

PARIS — Forget the baguette. The French are going crazy for burgers.… Continue reading

Can Zuckerberg’s media blitz take the pressure off Facebook?

NEW YORK — In the wake of a privacy scandal involving a… Continue reading

Brace for more red ink, no good plan for balance in Alberta budget: opposition

EDMONTON — Opposition parties say Albertans should brace for a provincial budget… Continue reading

Police: Austin bomber’s motive still unknown, despite video

PFLUGERVILLE, Texas — A 25-minute cellphone video left behind by the bomber… Continue reading

Facebook crisis-management lesson: What not to do

NEW YORK — The crisis-management playbook is pretty simple: Get ahead of… Continue reading

Most Read

Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month