Oprah Winfrey ignited speculation she will run for president with her impassioned speech celebrating women at the Golden Globes on Sunday night. Her speech contained “trigger” words that indicated it was about something bigger. Oprah said a “new day is on the horizon” in America. She then went on to say of “brutally powerful men” who abuse their position: “Their time is up.”
Most importantly, Oprah gave the green light for her confidants to start talking about 2020, after previously dismissing the idea of running for office. Stedman Graham, Winfrey’s longtime companion, told reporters that a White House run would be “up to the people.” But “she would absolutely do it,” he said. That’s an open invitation for a Draft Oprah movement to start forming.
The Hollywood chapter is already launched. The Washington Post quoted Meryl Streep saying that Winfrey "launched a rocket" with the speech.
"I want her to run for president," Streep told the Post. "I don't think she had any intention [of declaring]. But now she doesn't have a choice."
So what are the chances that Oprah will throw her designer glasses into the ring and mount a campaign? Here are some of the factors that will go into her thinking.
Number One: She couldn’t ask for more favorable media coverage.
If Donald Trump’s media coverage was only five percent positive duirng his first year in office, Oprah’s would be completely the reverse if she geared up to run for president. NBC even had to pull back a tweet noting there was “Nothing but respect for OUR future president.” What is the term for something beyond media bias? Media adulation?
Media pundit Larry Hackett said Monday that “I think the 2020 presidential campaign actually began yesterday. The idea - we’ve elected a reality television now. I mean, why is this out of the question? She’s richer than he is, she’s a better TV star that he is, and she knows the American public.”
A possible Winfrey candidacy dominated network morning shows on Monday. Pundits pointed out that her star power endorsement was a major asset to Barack Obama’s rise in 2008, and that while campaigning for Hillary Clinton in 2016 she proclaimed the need for the country to elect a female president: "America, it's about time that we made that decision."
Number Two: The building blocks for a candidacy – name recognition and money – are there.
Winfrey has almost universal name recognition and her fans transcend traditional political categories. As actress Reese Witherspoon told the Golden Globes audience in introducing her: “There’s only person whose name is a verb, an adjective, and a feeling. And that is Oprah.” Polls show that she has a 39 percent favorable rating even among Republicans, and a majority of Independents admire her (along with over 70 percent of Democrats.)
And with a net worth of several billion dollars, Winfrey could spurn contributions from special interests, labor unions and corporations and declare her independence from politics-as-usual – much as Donald Trump did in 2016.
Number Three: Oprah would have no trouble delaying any decision to run, because she will remain in the public spotlight.
Her next role is in director Ava DuVernay's movie version of "A Wrinkle in Time," which hits theaters in April. She remains visible in her role as a special correspondent for CBS’s “60 Minutes,” a gig she would have to give up were she to declare her candidacy.
An unofficial campaign may have already begun. Media pundit Larry Hackett told “Good Morning America” on Monday that “I think the 2020 presidential campaign actually began yesterday. The idea - we’ve elected a reality television star now. I mean, why is this out of the question? She’s richer than he is, she’s a better TV star that he is, and she knows the American public.”
Number Four: She will have favorable notices from the small but politically influential “Never Trump” movement within the Republican Party.
Consider that Bill Kristol, the former editor of The Weekly Standard, is already bullish about her chances for the Democratic nomination after the Golden Globe speech, tweeting:
“Oprah: Sounder on economics than Bernie Sanders, understands Middle America better than Elizabeth Warren, less touchy-feely than Joe Biden, more pleasant than Andrew Cuomo, more charismatic than John Hickenlooper.”
But are there reasons that Oprah might not run?
Sure, one would be that running for president is no picnic, especially for someone used to positive press. While Hollywood and network TV shows would go easy on her, she would have her critics.
Consider that Alex Jones, the conspiracy theorist behind the widely read website InfoWars.com, threw a punch at Oprah after her speech, saying on his Monday broadcast: “Ladies and gentlemen, I have always broken down the fact that Oprah Winfrey is a top globalist, a top eugenicist, who pushes a one world religion through her private foundation. … She’s even got a new age movie coming out to brainwash the children. Well they’ve readied her to run against Trump in 2020 and to fire that campaign up in about a year. But we know the secrets about Oprah Winfrey that they don’t want you to know.”
A more important reason that Oprah may not run is that you can get a lot of the benefits of running for president without actually running. Take Donald Trump. He head faked presidential runs in 1988, 1992, 2000, 2008 and 2012 before he actually ran. Each time he managed to get enormous coverage, built up his brand and was able to influence the policy debate.
As Stephanie Schriock of the women’s political group Emily’s List says: “As a heroine to women and many men she could focus attention on her key issues in so many ways.” All without spending more than few pennies and having people take you seriously.
Mark my words, while Oprah may ultimately not run for president she is almost certainly going to spend the next year or so pretending that she is.