December 9th, 2007
06:34 AM ET
15 years ago

The double "O" show

DES MOINES, Iowa–After 20 years covering politics, I’m a hard sell. I’ve seen every gimmick known to politicians: train trips, hang gliders, pyrotechnics and “intimate” conversations with voters in barber shops, front porches, diners and ice cream shops. Lord knows I have seen hundreds of endorsements.

But the Double “O” show, coming to an early primary state near you, was something else again. There was an “Iowa for Obama” sign on the wall, adorned with white Christmas tree lights. The obligatory banner hung in camera range just behind the podium. There were a couple of signs, but no fireworks, no hang gliders, just Oprah and Obama and thousands of their closest friends packed into a cavernous arena in downtown Des Moines.

Gayle (Oprah’s BFF) told one of the women seated next to her that Oprah was up until three in the morning writing her speech introducing Obama. She told people backstage she was nervous. I asked one of his advisers if the campaign had any input. “Nope,” he said “All the Big O.” If that’s true, Winfrey has a future. It was a great speech, and she is a gifted speaker.

The crowd was wild for Oprah. Thunderous applause. Camera flashes lit up the arena. Somebody yelled, “Oprah for Vice-President”. Obama turned around and smiled. That would be, he said “a demotion”. He spent so much time fawning over her she finally asked him to “move along.” He did which-minus the Ode to Oprah- was mostly his standard stump speech.

Afterwards, reporters were asking people in the crowd whether they came for Oprah or Obama. Face it, it’s caucus time in Iowa. They can see a politician any day of the week. This is the Oprah tour, and they understand that at Camp Obama. They welcome that at Camp Obama. She drew them in. He made his case.

Endorsements do not decide elections. I don’t think they matter much at all (I remind you of Al Gore’s endorsement of Howard Dean). But as I watched Oprah embrace Obama as thousands of people went crazy, I found myself wondering how many votes a hug is worth.

–CNN Senior Political Correspondent Candy Crowley

Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama • Race to '08
soundoff (109 Responses)
  1. Greg Lederer, Cedar Rapids IA

    "I don’t think they matter much at all (I remind you of Al Gore’s endorsement of Howard Dean)." In fact, Gore's endorsement of Dean was Dean's high water mark; his numbers started going down from that day. Iowans did not appreciate hearing from a failed candidate that the '04 caucus was unnecessary, that the candidate was already chosen. A truly fascinating moment.

    Caucus success, especially for the democrats, is all about turn-out, which in turn is all about organization. This is a 100,000 to 200,000 person event. Oprah cannot contribute much more to that process than motivation and morale. But we sure liked having her visit.

    December 10, 2007 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  2. New York

    BFF = Best Friend Forever...

    December 10, 2007 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  3. Suzi Ropiequet Highland Park IL

    Oprah said it best..."He speaks with the unvarnished tongue of truth." She simply puts into eloquent words what all us Obama supporters feel in our hearts.

    December 10, 2007 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  4. Karen, Des Moines, Iowa

    I notice Republicans are posting on stories about Democratic candidates. They might just be rehearsing for their swift-boat attacks in the general election, but a kinder interpretation is that they are fed up with the sorry field of fatally flawed candidates they have to chose from. No matter who wins the Democratic nomination, he or she will be a better President than anyone the Republicans are offering.

    December 10, 2007 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  5. Tom, New York, NY

    Gotta love it... about 70% of the comments on here are negative in regards to Oprah... yes, she is popular with her audience and her television show... but there is a reason she has stayed out of politics and it showed on Saturday....and Obama...he speaks of experience but like others have pointed out, the facts are he is NOT doing his job as an elected official, and if he were, he would vote and try to make a difference with his vote... he has no courage to do that while in the Senate and the Illinois legislature, how is he going to have the courage (and "hope) as president? Bet there is no answer for this one out there by the Obama supporters....

    December 10, 2007 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  6. Amanda, Atlanta, GA

    I am an Oprah fan, and I think she has an amazing ability to sway the American public. I think this Obama campaign is a gross abuse of the power she knows she has. If she can bring down the meat industry just by saying she doesn't like it, she just might have the ability to sway this election. The fact that she is supporting an inexperienced and unqualified candidate saddens me. She needs to leave politics to the people who know what they are talking about. She does some good things in the this world but if she convinces the country to elect this man... it could be devistating for the country and the world, which would single handededly undo all of the good she has ever done. I have take Oprah off my TiVo in protest.

    December 10, 2007 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  7. Elaine Stanger Fort Wayne, IN

    Obama is the man who will return this country to moral decency. We certainly need it. We have had enought "experience" the past 7 years and it has nearly destroyed this great country. And Oprah has the sense to realize that.

    December 10, 2007 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  8. Infonomics, Houston, TX

    CNN conducted a poll on their cite that indicated overwhelmingly
    (95% to 5% at one time) that voters do not regard celebrities as a
    deciding influence when voting. Of course, if this poll results is
    indeed representative of the population at large, we must all agree that such a proposition is refreshing because to say otherwise is a
    caustic affront to an individual's intelligence and the collective
    intelligence of a nation. Why? If candidates believed with some
    certainty that voters could be influenced by a celebrity, is it not
    possible and wholly humiliating to think that Alvin the Chipmunk
    could determine the next President. Frankly, I adore Alvin but his
    judgment about the future of a nation is suspect. If you doubt the
    psychological power over weak minds, then I remind you of Jimmy
    Jones, Heavens Gate and David Koresh. Did not Bertrand Russell
    say it best: "Most people would rather die than think and, in fact,
    most do."

    December 10, 2007 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  9. Stu Steinberg, Crooked River Ranch Oregon

    I am always taken aback by the patently racist, ignorant rants I see in the comments on some of the Ticker blogs. You can tell who the pinheads are from their functionally illiterate comments that make no sense and have no credence. Oooo...Oprah is racist because she's black and Obama's black. Oooo...Oprah should stick to TV because she doen't have the right to be political. And on and on and on. The fetid ignorance of some people in this country is sickening and we will not be rid of this scourge until they are dead and, hopefully, have not incuclated their children with their racist diatribes. I am quite sure that most of these cretins are going to vote for Mike Huckabeem who doesn't believe in evloution and believes that men and dinosaurs hung out together. I hope Huckabee gets the nomination because the Democrats will simply wipe him out. 70% of the people in this country totally reject these type of beliefs and thank God most people in this country believe that we are all equal and that race has nothing to do with anything. Experience? What experience did George Bush have? Governor of Texas? Don't make me laugh. He avoiding serving in Vietnam, bankrupted every company he was ever involved in and continued reading a children's book when he was informed that we were under attack. At least Obama doesn't pronounce nuclear, "noo-kee-ur."

    December 11, 2007 04:40 am at 4:40 am |
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