Monday, December 10, 2007

The O & O Show

Straits Times - Dec 10, 2007

Welcome to the O & O show

Obama hopes Oprah's support will win him the Democratic ticket

DES MOINES (IOWA) - DEMOCRATIC presidential hopeful Barack Obama's campaign has rolled out talk show host Oprah Winfrey - one of the most influential women in the US - in a bid to win over female and black voters in key election states.

Winfrey brought a showbiz buzz to Mr Obama's campaign over the weekend, kicking off a three- state tour with a rousing speech to screaming fans who braved freezing weather to see her.

One of the biggest crowds so far in the 2008 race for president - some 18,500 people - crammed into a hall in Iowa on Saturday to hear Winfrey's firstever speech for a political candidate in an event dubbed the Double 'O' show by the media.

'I'm here to tell you, Iowa, he is the one,' the entertainment diva told the cheering crowd, some of whom screamed they wanted her as vice-president.

She urged voters to back Mr Obama's 'new vision' for the United States.

Winfrey's dramatic appearance helped underscore the high stakes in the first caucuses, which will be held on Jan3.

Running neck-and-neck in the polls here and unable to predict how voters will react to sharp clashes close to the holidays, Mr Obama and his rival for the Democratic nomination Hilary Rodham Clinton are campaigning furiously, with an emphasis on winning over female voters.

Clinging to her role as the national front runner, Mrs Clinton scrambled to match the Oprah moment by taking her 88-year-old mother, Mrs Dorothy Rodham, and Chelsea, 27, on the campaign trail at the weekend.

Neither had appeared publicly yet with the senator in her presidential bid.

The reluctant Chelsea Clinton's public emergence normally would have been big news, but it was a lastminute move that was overshadowed by hype surrounding Winfrey.

Mrs Clinton - pledging 'change across the generations' as she courted voters - all but conceded that Mr Obama's high-wattage events would dominate the weekend news.

Mr Obama's roadshow continued yesterday with a signature rally in South Carolina, a state where half the Democratic electorate, like him and Winfrey, is African-American.

Winfrey is viewed as one of the most influential entertainers in the world. Mr Obama hopes her millions of mainly female disciples will help him outpace Mrs Clinton, the first woman with a realistic chance of winning the White House.

But Winfrey's influence on politics is as yet untested. A USA Today/ Gallup Poll released in October found 8per cent of adults said her endorsement made them more likely to support Mr Obama, while 10per cent said it would make them less likely to back him.

In her speech, Winfrey said Mr Obama's stance as a candidate of change was more important than the perceived lack of political experience for which opponents such as Mrs Clinton criticise him.

'Experience in the hallways of government isn't as important to me as the experience on the pathway of life,' Winfrey said, citing the first-term Illinois senator's achievements outside Washington.

Many people at Saturday's event said Winfrey was largely the reason they attended. After she spoke, hundreds left, missing all or part of Mr Obama's speech.

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