Would Oprah Run For President In 2020?

Jan 8, 2018
Originally published on January 8, 2018 8:35 pm
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

By now you might have heard that Oprah Winfrey delivered a big speech last night at the Golden Globe Awards.

(SOUNDBITE OF 75TH ANNUAL GOLDEN GLOBE AWARDS)

OPRAH WINFREY: For too long, women have not been heard or believed if they dared to speak their truth to the power of those men. But their time is up.

(CHEERING, APPLAUSE)

WINFREY: Their time is up.

(CHEERING, APPLAUSE)

SHAPIRO: Winfrey was talking about sexual harassment. The hashtag that started trending on social media was #Oprah2020. In the age of Donald Trump, the idea of Oprah running for president does not seem so far-fetched. Our political editor Domenico Montanaro is here for a reality check.

Hi, Domenico.

DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Hey there, Ari.

SHAPIRO: What do you think it was about her speech last night that triggered this 2020 talk?

MONTANARO: I mean, there was this soaring, kind of hopeful rhetoric that has been really missing from a lot of the platforms that we've seen. I mean, just take a listen to this line where I think she struck a very political chord.

(SOUNDBITE OF 75TH ANNUAL GOLDEN GLOBE AWARDS)

WINFREY: So I want all the girls watching here and now to know that a new day is on the horizon.

(CHEERING, APPLAUSE)

WINFREY: And when that new day finally dawns...

(CHEERING, APPLAUSE)

WINFREY: ...It will be because of a lot of magnificent women, many of whom are right here in this room tonight, and some pretty phenomenal men.

MONTANARO: Now, there's a couple things in here I want you to pay attention to. She said a very carefully and clearly calibrated line where she's saying that you have to give a nod as well to men, OK? This was not just a, quote, unquote, "#MeToo speech," as one Democratic operative I talked to said. He said, you could go with just a #MeToo speech, but she rose to a different level. And you know, that whole new day is on the horizon certainly sounds like a pretty good political campaign slogan if you ask me.

SHAPIRO: So you're talking to Democratic operatives. Do they think an Oprah 2020 run is realistic?

MONTANARO: (Laughter) They're very bullish on it to be perfectly honest. I was kind of surprised by that. And let's talked about the pros that they go through, first of all. You know, independently, both of these operatives called her the antidote to Trump in many ways - message. Obviously she's a black woman - looking different. But it's not just that because there are certainly others who are minorities who could run. But it was the way and the power of - with which she delivered her message.

They said that 2018 Democrats need to pay attention to that message because even if she doesn't run, these other Democrats are just too strongly looking to out-left each other, which is not what the party needs, they said. And they think that if they take her message, they could actually do pretty well in 2018, this year.

They said she's got the name ID. She's got the money, although no one can really self-fund a presidential campaign entirely. And she was in American living rooms and homes for 20 years. You know, there's a difference now. People think they are seeing a paradigm shift from instead of left to right but, as one operative said, from up to down - a populist kind of message.

SHAPIRO: If those are the pros, what are the cons?

MONTANARO: There are obviously some cons. You know, she's a celebrity. Again, she's going to have to convince people that they should go with somebody who's an outsider who's in showbiz. You know, there's this natural inclination, one said, to go with boring given the pendulum swings we've traditionally seen. Bush was a response to Clinton, Obama to Bush, Trump to Obama. Has the pendulum completely swung around? We don't know.

SHAPIRO: What does the White House have to say about this?

MONTANARO: Well, the White House has looked at this, obviously. They said that they welcome the challenge. We heard former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer today say that Oprah would be a formidable candidate and that she might also have an unlikely well-connected booster in the White House. Let's listen to this.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "LARRY KING LIVE")

LARRY KING: You have a vice presidential candidate in mind?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Well, I really haven't gotten quite there yet.

KING: Well, come on. It's just - you would lose...

TRUMP: Oprah - I love Oprah. Oprah would always be my first choice.

(LAUGHTER)

SHAPIRO: How long ago was that?

MONTANARO: That was only 1999. Not that long ago, President Trump - Donald Trump back then when he was running for president told Larry King on CNN that Oprah would be his first choice for a running mate, called her fantastic, popular, brilliant, everything under the sun. So a run with Oprah and Trump - can you imagine?

SHAPIRO: NPR's Domenico Montanaro. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.