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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 24 June 2018

Oprah presidential buzz goes viral, but could she win in 2020?

After a rousing speech at the Golden Globes, many Americans are talking up the political chances of the former talk show host

Oprah Winfrey speaks after accepting the Cecil B Demille Award at the Golden Globe Awards. Paul Drinkwater/NBC/REUTERS
Oprah Winfrey speaks after accepting the Cecil B Demille Award at the Golden Globe Awards. Paul Drinkwater/NBC/REUTERS

It was a nine-minute speech at the Golden Globes Awards that has been watched by more than 30 million people since Sunday night, and it has ignited speculation about a 2020 presidential run for American media star and businesswoman Oprah Winfrey.

Winfrey electrified the gathering in Los Angeles with her speech accepting the Cecil B DeMille lifetime achievement award. It was an embrace of feminism, the #MeToo movement, a cry against racial injustice and a promise of hope and “a new day”, all delivered with enough vigour and passion to start a buzz about a possible run against Donald Trump for the US presidency in 2020.

Hours later, the speculation grew as Winfrey’s long-time partner Stedman Graham told the Los Angeles Times that, “It's up to the people. She would absolutely do it.” On Monday, the #Oprah2020 hashtag was trending on social media and CNN, quoting two close friends of Winfrey, said she is “actively thinking” about running for president.

The star is regarded as a powerful African-American voice and a champion for justice and equality, transcending the entertainment career as a host of The Oprah Winfrey Show until 2011.

But could she win? A poll conducted last March by Public Policy Polling showed her with 49/33 favourability rating and with a 47-40 in a hypothetical 2020 presidential contest against Mr Trump.

Over the years she has earned praise from Mr Trump. In 1999, he said she would be his first choice for a running mate:

In 2012, Mr Trump called her a winner: “Oprah will end up doing just fine with her network – she knows how to win.”

Political analyst and reporter April Ryan saw Winfrey's core strength in connecting with average voter. “She is every person. She has been poor & now rich. She is also a self made billionaire. She has a grasp of the issues as she used to cover local politics. She can articulate any issue and she has mass appeal beyond race & gender.”

The Late Show hosted by Stephen Colbert already produced an #Oprah2020 meme:

Republicans from the “never Trump” camp such as Bill Kristol endorsed a possible run:

But many Trump supporters attacked his potential rival, circulating photos of Winfrey with Harvey Weinstein, the movie producer who is accused by more than dozen women of sexual harassment and assault:

Others advised caution. “Folks, Oprah was fabulous. A shot in the arm. An earnest appeal to our broader cultural conscience. But here's a shot of reality: Oprah won't save us. No one will. This ain't Hollywood. There is no storybook. Go win some Congressional races,” tweeted journalist Tom Watson:

Elections analyst Nate Cohn settled the debate, saying “I don’t know if she is running, but who could count her out if she did?”

Nobody in their right mind, not after 2016.