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. Independent in IA

    Hard to believe people would fall for this gimickry.

    December 8, 2007 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  2. Mark Tickler

    Obama, I and my friends won't vote for you no matter who you bringing in! And we are not going to wathc any of Oprah's show any more!

    December 8, 2007 09:00 pm at 9:00 pm |
  3. Mark Tickler

    Obama is not capable for President no matter who he brings in to help him.

    December 8, 2007 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  4. Stephen Fisher, Chicago

    Why not try to be the VP of Clinton and learn from her for some years first?

    December 8, 2007 09:03 pm at 9:03 pm |
  5. mark, Wa

    Maybe instead of entertainment people would consider more information about the policies proposed by candidates.

    An interesting article about the famous health plan proposed by Obama. You know the guy? The one Oprah praised as 'the man with a new vision for America"

    December 8, 2007 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  6. Paul McLean, Nevada

    Obama, we won't vote for you no matter who you are bringing in. You need to be more experienced.

    December 8, 2007 09:08 pm at 9:08 pm |
  7. Angela Fish , Iowa

    Oprah, you should not be so political. I won't be your fan any more.

    December 8, 2007 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |
  8. harry,Iowa

    Hahahahahah, Cnn just commenting on where you have put ticker today. Looks like you are getting desperate too, right?

    December 8, 2007 09:24 pm at 9:24 pm |
  9. steve,malden,ma

    Good for her. I watched the whole event and can not be any success to Obama than it was today. I am an independent and I think Oprah made me think Obama can change the world for me. I am for O..............

    December 8, 2007 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  10. Sharon, New York, NY

    I LOVE Oprah!! Is it me or has Oprah EVER campaigned for a candidate before? Is it that they are both people of color?

    Has Oprah ever endorsed a candidate?
    In 52 years...why now? Someone enlighten me. He's pretty wet behind the ears; no experience to speak of.

    It's a little baffling if it's not racial.

    December 8, 2007 09:33 pm at 9:33 pm |
  11. Jenkins, NYC

    The Oprah endorsement for Obama was one of the Hillary campaign's greatest shocks. They actually believed if Oprah endorsed anyone at all, it would be Hillary herself. It was in the stars.
    Here's my take (worth 2 cents). Someone (a small group, most likely) very, very high up in the busines/political/people whose-names-we-don't- even-know power structure of this country decided Hillary was not the right person for them. Whether she or Bill ticked them off or disrespected them or whatever, Hillary's name got taken off the list. She has to go. Now what needed to be done? Decide how to take her out. But it had to be in a slow, humiliating manner. How better than to seed a young upstart with no special experience, someone who was likable, smart, black and, of course, a male. Voila, Obama. I mean he really did come out of nowhere, compared to Hillary. A major personality, a BIG brand, had to be chosen to push Obama far forward in the race, and attract major media attention in a credible manner.
    Someone approaches Oprah to check her out. They explain the plan, tell her the MSM has already bought into the plan, promise her whatever, appeal to her ego, and finally she consents. For the first time, she will go public, very public, for a presidential candidate.
    In the meantime Hillary boils. How could they do this to her? Her campaign advisers scratch their heads. They haven't got a clue about what to do next. She has been double-crossed. She is on a rampage. "DO SOMETHING!!" she screams to her staff. This was not supposed to happen. This time it's not the vast right wing conspiracy trying to destroy her plans for greatness. It's the democrats.
    Gotta be a hard pill to swallow for her and Bill. Now they have to figure out who's behind all this. Who did they tick off? They will never know.

    December 8, 2007 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
  12. Fanuccii Saint Helena, California

    I think it is terrible that Oprah has endorsed any candidate so publicly. There are millions of people that are followers. They will not do any research on any of the candidates, they will not watch a speech or read a newspaper. They will vote for Obama because Oprah says to. Shame on Oprah for using her power in the wrong way.

    December 8, 2007 09:45 pm at 9:45 pm |
  13. Scott,Tupelo,MS

    Poor Hillary the hag how do you compete with Oprah. Looks like Hillary will have to crawl back in her hole here in the next few months after she loses the nomination.

    December 8, 2007 09:47 pm at 9:47 pm |
  14. kristal mac leod

    oprah endorses some1 and coincidently he,s afro american what makes him better then the rest he,s moral,s, his beliefs, his star quanlities, his looks maybe? is this not a form racism?

    December 8, 2007 09:48 pm at 9:48 pm |
  15. Trever White, Iowa

    Oprah, Obama, OooooooooooPs........!

    December 8, 2007 09:49 pm at 9:49 pm |
  16. Mrs. America

    I have to admit I've never seen Oprah's show because my schedule doesn't allow much TV time, and I use what I have to catch the Situation Room in the afternoon, or at least part of it. I know Oprah is a super star and outrageously popular. However, I would certainly hope people think for themselves and vote on candidates' merits, not on what star someone has in tow.

    And, what is BFF? I haven't posted in a few weeks. Did I miss some new code?

    December 8, 2007 09:52 pm at 9:52 pm |
  17. Wayne, Silver Spring

    For once, in a long time, I read a well written post that is not biased towards Hillary!

    Thank you, CNN.

    December 8, 2007 10:08 pm at 10:08 pm |
  18. Matthew, Bethlehem, PA

    That is what this was all about to begin with. To have oprah draw the large crowds that could possibly have a large amount of undecided voters and 'let' Obama make his case to the people. Oprah was not there to change people's minds, that was Obama's job.

    December 8, 2007 10:10 pm at 10:10 pm |
  19. Lioness, Washington DC

    Nice write-up, Ms. Crowley.

    Nice to see that even a world-weary reporter was impressed by this event. Oprah will not get him votes – but she will catapult him to national attention, to all those corners of the country where his name is still barely known.

    I would not be surprised if the non-political press covers this too – outlets like People Magazine, for example.

    Obama for President!

    December 8, 2007 10:10 pm at 10:10 pm |
  20. Michael. Los Angeles CA

    Oprah double speak – where is the story on that CNN – When Clinton did it – you rush to post that story –

    December 8, 2007 10:11 pm at 10:11 pm |
  21. Irish chick

    I love Oprah!
    Check out my blog
    for some awesome stuff!

    December 8, 2007 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm |
  22. Les WA

    Oprah Winfrey should listen what Ambassador Andrew Young said about Barack Obama. What Ambassador Young said is an eye opener about Obama which nobody address even the media. And YES Obama went to an Islamic school in Indonesia(that's coming from Ambassador Young). Ambassador Young is African-American and Lt. of Martin Luther King Jr.

    Somebody need to clean up this mess Bush is about to leave behind, Obama can't clean it up; but Hillary can!

    December 8, 2007 10:21 pm at 10:21 pm |
  23. Fenella Dobson, Hong Kong

    In referrence to Barak Obama. It offends me that the media consistently refer to him as a "Black" candidate and the recent endorsment by Oprah appears to reinforce the label of a man of colour.
    May I point out that he is as "white" as his is "black". His Mother was White His father was Black.
    Isn't it time we moved past such archaic thinking and started looking at people for who they are and what they stand for?

    December 8, 2007 10:24 pm at 10:24 pm |
  24. Brennan, Riverside IA

    I think that people may be downplaying the importance of Oprah to the Obama campaign. It seems like political pundits are saying the effect will be minimal, but they are underestimating the power of Oprah. Like it or not Oprah turns anything she touches to gold. Obama may well be the next beneficiary and deservedly so.

    December 8, 2007 10:34 pm at 10:34 pm |
  25. Not a blind follower

    Oprah and Obama together give a very negative image for Obama campaign: both are talkers. Only thing Oprah is famous for is talking. That is exactly what Obama does, talking. He missed over 80% votes in US Senate and has been the most ever “present” Senator in Illinois Senate (meaning he does not vote “yes” nor “no” but say “ I am present but not vote”). Now the Talk Queen endorses and stands together with the Talk King, emphasizing what they are in common—doing noting but talking!

    December 8, 2007 10:35 pm at 10:35 pm |
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