Oprah Winfrey suddenly has the best of all worlds—a flood of gushing praise about the possibility of running for president without actually having to do it.
And if she does do it, well, she’ll quickly learn that being an entertainment icon is far easier than taking positions on tough issues and dealing with a tsunami of political attacks.
What, for instance, is Oprah’s position on trade with China? Chain migration? Arming Syrian rebels? Financing infrastructure projects? It’s one thing to be a hugely successful talk show host and a pal of Barack Obama, and another to take on the world’s problems in a hyperpolarized atmosphere.
In the wake of her Golden Globes speech Sunday night, Oprah’s people were talking up the prospect. Her longtime partner Stedman Graham told the L.A. Times, “It's up to the people. She would absolutely do it."
And NBC seemed to be on board. “Nothing but respect for OUR future president,” the network tweeted in a huge embarrassment for its news division. (NBC yesterday deleted the tweet, saying it had been posted by a “third party” and was supposed to relate to a joke on the show. I think a special prosecutor needs to investigate how this shadowy third party got the Twitter nuclear codes.)
But Oprah also told Bloomberg backstage that she has no plans to run.
Winfrey was certainly sounding campaign-esque as she praised the press--which she said is “under siege”--and smoothly pivoted from the Hollywood women who have been subjected to “abuse” to half the electorate:
“They’re the women whose names we’ll never know. They are domestic workers and farmworkers. They are working in factories and they work in restaurants and they’re in academia, engineering, medicine and science. They’re part of the world of tech and in politics and business. They’re our athletes in the Olympics and they’re our soldiers in the military.”
The chattering class is chattering away.
“It's difficult to totally dismiss the idea of Winfrey 2020,” says the Washington Post.
“Oprah 2020 cannot be laughed off. This could really work,” says the Daily Beast.
“She delivered the kind of inspirational and aspirational message at the Golden Globes that Hillary Clinton had trouble hammering home in the 2016 presidential election,” said NBC’s Jonathan Allen.
Five years ago, the idea of a wealthy TV host with no political experience capturing the White House might have seemed far-fetched. Now, not so much. And wouldn’t the media love to cover a Trump-Oprah race?
Obviously, Winfrey is beloved on the left, has business experience and can spend some of her billions on assembling a crack team. She’s a woman who would have more minority support than Hillary and a zillion percent name recognition.
But I don’t think she’s going to run and face the searing scrutiny and personal attacks of a presidential campaign. Far better to have the pundits—and your fans—chewing the fat about how great it would be if you took the plunge.