'America is captivated by celebrities': Democrats weigh in on Oprah 2020

    75th Golden Globe Awards - Press Room Featuring: Oprah Winfrey Where: Beverly Hills, California, United States When: 07 Jan 2018 Credit: Regina Wagner/Future Image/WENN.com

    Since her rousing speech at the Golden Globes on Sunday, politicians, entertainers and even President Donald Trump have weighed in on the possibility of television mogul and billionaire businesswoman Oprah Winfrey running for president in 2020.

    "Yeah, I’ll beat Oprah. Oprah would be a lot of fun," Trump told reporters at the White House on Tuesday. The president, who turned away from his own private life of luxury for the rough and tumble of the political arena added that he doesn't believe all the hype around Oprah 2020.

    "I like Oprah," he said. "I don't think she's going to run."

    A number of Democrats are already getting energized about Winfrey and the idea of another major celebrity going head to head with Donald Trump.

    "America is captivated by celebrities. How else can you explain how Donald Trump won?" California Rep. Jackie Speier told Sinclair Broadcast Group. "At least let's get a celebrity who has a brain and who reads and who has compassion in her heart," she added, taking a jab at the current Commander in Chief.

    On Monday, Speier took to Twitter encouraging Oprah to run, tweeting, "An army of women would fight for you in #2020election."

    New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, whose name has been floated in the past as a possible Democratic candidate for president, said he has known Oprah Winfrey personally for years and believes "the country would be lucky if she wanted to get into politics."

    "If she were to make that decision, this country would benefit. The country would benefit because she is a lightworker," he said.

    Another Senator who some see as a presidential hopeful, Kamala Harris of California, offered an emphatic thumbs up indicating her support for Winfrey. "2020 is a long time away, but I think Oprah should do whatever she wants to do," Harris said.

    The Democratic National Committee did not return a request for comment on whether Winfrey would be a windfall for the party. But for a lot of Democratic insiders, 2018 is much more important than 2020.

    "I want to see anybody who's interested in 2020... help us have a good 2018," said Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine. "If we have a good 2018, it will help anybody who wants to be a 20202 candidate because it will provide energy and excitement and a sense of optimism, like the Virginia race or the Alabama race."

    Kaine, who was Hillary Clinton's running mate in 2016 and served as the chair of the DNC from 2009 through 2011, stressed that "there are going to be so many candidates" vying for president in 2020 and it's too soon to start winnowing the field.

    As far as Oprah as a viable candidate, "Man, she'd bring a lot to the table," Kaine said.


    Oprah Winfrey spent the past three decades building a media empire and reaching millions of Americans tuned in to her long-running daytime talk show, then her television network, her magazine and everything in between. One obvious strength for the Queen of Media, as a candidate, Oprah would have almost 100 percent name recognition.

    But experts question whether she would be willing to give up everything, including her popularity as a largely non-political figure, to seek high office.

    Back in March, after rumors of Oprah 2020 emerged, Public Policy Polling surveyed voters and found her favorability was 49 percent, her unfavorability was 33 percent, and she led Trump 47-40 in a hypothetical 2020 matchup.

    Despite the positive numbers, Oprah quashed the rumors, as she has done a number of times over the past year.

    When Oprah Winfrey delivered her acceptance speech for a lifetime achievement award at the Golden Globes on Sunday, it was met with explosive praise on social media and in politial circles.

    "A new day is on the horizon," Oprah said in her address. Commenting broadly on overcoming personal challenges and social adversity, she spoke to a shared quality "to maintain hope for a brighter morning, even during our darkest nights."

    Golden Globe winner Meryl Streep threw her support behind the media mogul, telling the Washington Post, "She launched a rocket tonight. I want her to run for president." The actress said she doubted Winfrey intended to launch a presidential bid, adding, "But now she doesn’t have a choice."

    The rumor mill jolted into high gear when Winfrey's long-time partner Stedman Graham was asked by the Los Angeles Times whether she would consider running for president. "It's up to the people. She would absolutely do it," he said.

    Chief strategist of Barack Obama's 2008 and 2012 campaigns David Axelrod wrote in a Tuesday op-ed, "More than one person mentioned to me that the speech reminded them of Barack Obama's electrifying baptism in national politics, his keynote at the 2004 Democratic convention."

    He continued that Obama's road to the White House was long and fraught with the "indignities" that come from having one's life examined under a political microscope. He cautioned, "If you care about actually making a difference, the payoff of being the president can be extraordinary and satisfying. But the price is high."

    Sen. Booker raised similar concerns that the political environment may be too "toxic" for Oprah to consider public office.

    "A lot of Americans, because of how toxic our political environment is, they don't want to subject themselves or their families to that kind of environment," he said. "Too many people opt out of running for office."

    Still, he repeated that if she were to sacrifice her private life for public service, it would be a boon to the country and the Democratic Party. "At a time [when] our nation needs to be reminded that the lines that divide are nowhere near as strong as the ties that bind us, she has had a spiritual voice, a moral voice in this country awakening that understanding," Booker stressed. "She would bring a lot."

    Republican strategist and author of Mullings, Rich Galen, noted that Oprah could be in for a rude awakening if she decides to heed the call to public service.

    "I think when she gets into this, she is going to realize how very difficult it is, how very unfriendly it is. The roses thrown at her feet in Hollywood or at Harpo are not likely to follow her to the campaign trail," Galen explained. "I suspect that we get down to it, she's going to decide that her life is just fine without all that activity."


    Over the course of her long career, Oprah has carefully avoided taking a hard stand on political issues. Her position on specific issues from immigration and education to national defenses and foreign policy could be as big a surprise as members of The Oprah Winfrey Show audience checking under their seats for a prize.

    While Oprah threw her full support behind Barack Obama in 2008 and gave somewhat less enthusiastic support to Hillary Clinton in 2016, the media mogul has said in the past that she voted for Republicans and Democrats.

    Now a number of political analysts have begun scouring her record to try to suss out her positions.

    The would-be Democratic candidate received an odd endorsement from neo-conservative political analyst Bill Kristol who took to Twitter to say, "#ImWithHer."

    In a series of follow-up tweets, Kristol pointed to statements that could indicate the Queen of Media has a conservative streak. He even argued that she was "Pro-regime change in Iraq."

    Fiscal conservative Grover Norquist also got on board, quoting Oprah in 2011 apparently criticizing the death tax.

    Her exact positions on certain key policies are fuzzy at best. For example, though Oprah went all-in campaigning for Obama, she was much more reserved when asked to throw her muscle behind an actual policy, his signature health care law.

    In 2009, Obama invited some of Hollywood's top influencers to the White House to discuss how to rally support for the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare. When Oprah got the invite, "It was an immediate, flat-out, unequivocal no," one of the media mogul's close advisers told the New York Post. According to the report, Oprah said she "didn't have the time or inclination to go."

    There are a few broad issues that Oprah has taken a very clear and firm stance on, including forcefully advocating for race and gender equality. She was also among the earliest high-profile supporters of the LGBTQ community in the late 1990s and stood up against harsh criticism for her position.

    Slim on foreign policy experience, Oprah is a well-known philanthropist and has contributed time and money to groups like the International Red Cross, UNICEF, and other international groups. With an estimated net worth of approximately 2.8 billion, Oprah has put millions toward the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy in South Africa to promote education.

    According to Inside Philanthropy, the bulk of Oprah's charitable giving has gone to promoting educational causes including charter schools, as well as programs and scholarships to help African-American students get ahead.

    However, according to her own admission, the businesswoman's sheer lack of experience may not matter in an era where a real estate tycoon turned reality TV star can win the highest office. That was Oprah's thinking back in March when she floated the idea of a political career.

    According to Galen, Oprah's lack of experience in politics and policy could end up an unpleasant replay of the early part of Donald Trump's presidency.

    "As we've learned from Donald Trump, your weaknesses are quickly exposed," he said commenting on the president's lack of policy know-how. Oprah, he added, has nor more foreign policy experience than Donald Trump and it's not clear how much she knows about the ins-and-outs of other key issues like health care or education.

    "I don't know that she's the strongest candidate the Democrats are likely to have," Galen added. "But that's not the Republican's problem for about another three years."

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