Feature

Oprah brings out the crowds

Barack Obama made a series of high-profile presidential campaign appearances with Oprah Winfrey over the weekend, said Mary Mitchell in the Chicago Sun-Times, and the Queen of Talk's power might push Obama over the top. Winfrey certainly brought out the c

What happenedBarack Obama made a series of high-profile presidential campaign appearances with TV giant Oprah Winfrey over the weekend as he pulled even with Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton in some polls. Clinton’s lead has shrunk to 3 points in early voting South Carolina, where 29,000 people showed up for a Sunday rally. “"For the first time,” said Winfrey, who had never endorsed a candidate before Obama, “I'm stepping out of my pew because I've been inspired.” (MSNBC's First Read blog )

What the commentators said“Oprah Winfrey may be just what Barack Obama needs to push him over the top in South Carolina,” said Mary Mitchell in the Chicago Sun-Times. Black voters in that heavily black state “appear to trust the Queen of Talk a lot more than they trust the politicians.”

Much of the draw was “certainly due to the presence of the most famous black woman in the world,” said Thomas F. Schaller in Salon.com. Still, Clinton has plenty to worry about if the crowds that welcomed Obama in South Carolina are any indication of his popularity there.

Obama “made good use of the large crowd” in Columbia, S.C., said Ben Smith and David Paul Kuhn in The Politico. His campaign banked “names, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses for future contacts,” and established “an instantly certified new Guinness World Record for the ‘largest phone bank’ when audience members were asked to call other South Carolina Democrats” and seek their support for Obama. But it’s not clear whether this will translate into votes.

Why should it? said syndicated columnist Stanley Crouch in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Democratic primary voters are already comfortable with Hillary Clinton, and Obama shouldn’t assume that Oprah’s support will be enough to get people to reject Clinton and embrace him. “There are few who admire Winfrey’s work more than I do,” but she’s not the one running for president.

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