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Tuesday
Sep 16th

Oprahs star power does zilch for Obama

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What do Willie Nelson, Madonna, Bon Jovi, Martin Sheen and in reverse, George Clooney have in common? They are big money celebrities and virtual household names. They all endorsed Democratic presidential candidates in 2004. What do Willie Nelson, Madonna, Bon Jovi, Martin Sheen and in reverse, George Clooney have in common? They are big money celebrities and virtual household names. They all endorsed Democratic presidential candidates in 2004.

Nelson endorsed Dennis Kucinich. Bon Jovi endorsed John Kerry. Sheen endorsed Howard Dean. Madonna backed Wesley Clark. One of their picks went down to flaming defeat. The other three never came close to getting the Democratic presidential nomination.

As for Clooney, he publicly declared that he hoped that his non-endorsement of Kerry probably helped him at the polls. It didn't. But at least Clooney recognized a political truism that's etched in stone: a celebrity cheer lead of a presidential candidate does absolutely nothing to boost the candidate.

Yet mega star Oprah Winfrey thinks that things can be different now that she's signed on as one of Barack Obama's major bankrollers, an ex-officio campaign cheerleader and celebrity marketer. After all, how could millions of voters refuse a command from the closest thing to America's earth mother to back Obama?

It's simple: Almost no one pays any attention to what celebrities have to say about politicians. A September Newsweek poll removed any doubt about that. Barely three percent of respondents said that a celebrity endorsement had any influence on who they voted for. Oprah will have zilch effect on Obama's White House run for two common sense reasons.

In between an occasional touch on social issues, Oprah feeds millions of daytime housewives and house husbands with a steady dose of sneaks and peeks into gossipy movie star chit chat and self-help, marital and family relationship problem solving. Now in one big leap she's asking the same millions that dote on her sage advice on relationships to shift gears and trust her judgment that Obama is the best to handle global warming, tax policy, the Iraq war, terrorism, job creation and inflation, failing public schools, criminal justice issues and judicial appointments. That's like asking millions to accept disgraced Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick as the chair of the Humane Society of the U.S.'s animal cruelty prevention week. It's a terrible fit, and Oprah lovers will see through that.

The one group, though, that Obama is banking that Oprah can help pry loose from the Hillary column is women. But polls have shown that women voters don't march in lock step with a woman candidate solely based on gender, no matter how much personal sympathy and empathy they may have with the female candidate. They also judge a female candidate on their stance on the issues, their political beliefs and party affiliation. Hillary is a tough sell to many women who either like or loathe her, and she's a politician. There's absolutely no reason to think that women voters will stampede to Obama just because their favorite female talk show guru told them too.

The ultimate irony is that Oprah's roughest sale of Obama will be to Black women. Polls show that they are overwhelmingly backing Hillary. Though most adore Oprah and are well aware of her longstanding backing of Obama, that hasn't shaken their support of Clinton the least bit.

The other reason that Oprah's lusty public cheer of Obama won't work is Oprah. She's fabulously bankable, and much beloved, but she's also an African-American. And so is Obama. Oprah hasn't given the faintest hint that her tout and bankroll of Obama has anything to do with race, and is careful to make it clear that it's based solely on her belief that his competence and qualifications make him the right presidential stuff. However, an underlying suspicion is that there's more to it, and that she's just as thrilled as many other Blacks at the thought that an African-American can
 

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