|Commentary: Oprah's big bucks could help Obama in a big way|
(CNN) -- It's big news that the goddess of talk, Oprah Winfrey, is throwing a huge shindig for U.S. Sen. Barack Obama at her California estate that is expected to bring in $3 million.
- Oprah Winfrey's fundraiser for Barack Obama expected to bring in $3 million
- Martin imagines her shooting campaign ads around the country
- Winfrey has said Obama might be the first and last candidate she backs
That is more than what Hollywood honchos Steven Spielberg, David Geffen and others raised in separate fundraisers for Obama and his chief rival, Sen. Hillary Clinton.
No one knows for sure what the effect will be with Oprah backing Obama because she has never thrown her full support behind a political candidate.
The Washington Post made it plain as to her influence on the general public, courtesy of her massive media platform: "the television program that reaches 8.4 million viewers each weekday afternoon, according to the most recent Nielsen numbers. Her Web site reaches 2.3 unique viewers each month, 'O, the Oprah Magazine,' has a circulation of 2 million, she circulates a weekly newsletter to 420,000 fans and 360,000 people have subscribed to her Web site for daily 'Oprah Alerts' by e-mail."
Although Oprah is a billionaire, by law, all she can contribute to the Obama campaign is $4,600 -- $2,300 for the primary, and if he wins the nomination, he can use the other $2,300 for the general election campaign. Watch analysts talk about Winfrey's influence »
On CNN's "Larry King Live," she said that her support is bigger than any check she could write.
Although The Post reported that Oprah is in talks with the Obama campaign about taking an active role -- appearing at rallies or cutting campaign commercials -- she could instead choose to launch her own 527 political group that wouldn't have any spending restrictions.
Imagine this scenario: Oprah chooses to create the "O for Obama" 527 group. She then seeds it with $5 million, and plans a series of radio and TV ads touting Obama in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Arizona.
In Iowa, she might shoot a commercial in a cornfield. In New Hampshire, the setting might be outside the state capitol. How about the Geechee islands in South Carolina? And for Arizona, the infamous -- only because of its sheriff -- jail in Maricopa County.
She could tailor each ad for residents of that state, and flood the airwaves as Obama is doing the same.
Now, the laws says the 527s can't coordinate their messages with the campaign, and there are other restrictions. But it could be a huge boost to a campaign lagging Clinton in national polls.
You don't think they matter? Ask Sen. John Kerry. The Swift Boat Veterans launched a 527 group that developed devastating ads that helped derail his message, and the campaign.
Oprah may get some heat for trying to buy the election, but many rich benefactors have used their money for partisan purposes.
The talk show diva has been on record that Obama is the first, and likely last, candidate she publicly backs. If that's the case, why not simply go all out?
Roland S. Martin is a nationally award-winning, multifaceted journalist and CNN contributor. He is the author of "Listening to the Spirit Within: 50 Perspectives on Faith." You can read more of his columns at http://www.rolandsmartin.com/
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the writer.
|Oprah Winfrey may have larger role in Obama campaign|
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The impact of a prominent presidential endorsement often fails to resonate at the polls, but popular talk show host Oprah Winfrey's backing of Sen. Barack Obama could prove to have a more significant effect.
- Talk show host Oprah Winfrey holding fundraiser for Sen. Barack Obama
- Source says Winfrey may have a larger role in Illinois Democrat's campaign
- Winfrey's endorsement may help Obama reach female voters, analyst says
Winfrey, who first told CNN's Larry King last year she is backing Obama, may assume a visible role in the Democrat's presidential bid, a source close to the Illinois senator tells CNN. She is already slated to hold a star-studded fundraiser at her California estate this weekend.
Winfrey has repeatedly shown her name can sell nearly anything, but the media magnate has never endorsed a presidential candidate before.
It remains to be seen if the popular talk show host's role may go beyond raising money from her Hollywood friends, but the prospect of seeing Winfrey in campaign commercials or on the stump is already causing widespread speculation on the effect she may have.
"I think what Oprah can do is potentially bring out the congregants of the church of Oprah," Marty Kaplan, a communications professor at the University of Southern California, tells CNN. "She is a charismatic leader of a lay congregation."
"People buy books when she tells them to. They will watch her shows, and buy her magazines when she asks them to," Kaplan added. "So the question is, are enough of them willing to follow her lead not with a consumer good, but with a ballot cast?"
Moreover, Kaplan says, Winfrey's core audience is women, and her endorsement could help Obama compete with his chief presidential rival, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, for women's votes.
"One of his campaign officials in California told me Oprah is everything," Kaplan added. "So they have high hopes for the endorsement."
Obama and Winfrey's close relationship may also increase the chance she will be willing to take a visible role in the campaign.
"They met way back here in Chicago in the African-American social circuit back in, I believe, either the late 1990s or around 2000 when he was running for Congress," David Mendell, an Obama biographer, tells CNN.
"Obama is very adept at selling himself to people of the elite," Mendell added. "And so, in the last year or so, he has sat down with her and they have struck up this relationship."
Obama's campaign wouldn't elaborate on what role Winfrey may have, but spokesman Bill Burton told CNN, "We are proud to have the support of such an important and dynamic individual."