Oprah Winfrey has lived a truly rags-to-riches life. Her outstanding successes in media and business have proved her to be an exceptionally talented individual. Her electrifying speech at the Golden Globes has gotten people talking about her possible presidential run.
Another contender for the White House who initially stirred American viewers with a speech was Barack Obama. Four years after delivering a speech at the 2004 National Democratic Convention, Americans voted for him to serve as the first black President in U.S. history. Now, Oprah’s speech has given rise to the recent rumors that she may run for President in 2020. What do we know about this celebrity businesswoman’s potential bid for the presidency?
Born into poverty, Oprah ran away from an abusive home at age 13, and at 14, she got pregnant and lost the baby due to premature birth. But Oprah excelled in high school, earning honors and getting voted Most Popular Girl. At 17, Oprah entered the Miss Black Tennessee beauty contest and won. With her oratory gifts, she earned a full scholarship to Tennessee State University and studied communication. Her career in media began in local radio and television, covering the news as an anchor, and in 1983, she moved to Chicago to host a failing morning talk show. After a few months, Oprah’s show surpassed Donahue as the highest-rated show in Chicago. Roger Ebert, the film critic, struck a syndication deal with Oprah and they renamed the program The Oprah Winfrey Show and expanded it to an hour. Soon after that, Oprah’s show became the top-rated daytime talk show in America. You probably know the rest of the story about Oprah’s 30 years of amazing success.
In 2017, Oprah’s net worth reached $3 billion. She now owns and operates one of the world’s largest media empires, named Harpo, which is Oprah spelled backward. As a challenger to President Trump, who based much of his 2016 campaign strategy on the history of his business acumen and acquired wealth, Oprah would trump him in terms of both entrepreneurial success and net worth. This comparison may lead observers to believe Oprah could beat Trump in 2020.
In terms of polling, early results indicate that Oprah’s chances aren’t so great on the surface. 24% think Oprah should run, while 59% say she should not. However, if the Democratic primary were held today between Oprah and Elizabeth Warren, 39% of registered voters said they would vote for Oprah and 35% for Warren. Furthermore, if the presidential election were held today against Trump, the poll reveals that 40% would vote for Oprah, with Trump getting 38%. While these results may imply that Oprah’s chances aren’t as stunningly favorable as the cable news outlets gushed after her Golden Globes speech, consideration must be made for the fact that Oprah hasn’t even announced her intention to run, nor has she done any campaigning work.
“People shouldn’t put too much weight on early polling numbers,” comments Randall Isenberg, attorney and founder of the Law Offices of Randall B. Isenberg. “Trump’s early numbers for the 2016 election were pretty bad, but he obviously defied those in the end.”
Oprah would likely repair the adversarial relationship currently held between the White House and the press, a prospect that would certainly work to her advantage during a campaign. In fact, she made the defense of the press a highlight of her Golden Globes speech. And despite the fact that Trump has succeeded in media as a reality TV star and public figure, media savvy is Oprah’s core strength, again, giving her an advantage over Trump.
Government experience ha been shown to be a small issue in presidential races, given that Trump recently won with absolutely no experience in office. In fact, government experience can be used against candidates to paint them as out-of-touch and part of the status quo. A much more persuasive factor in presidential elections turns out to be business experience, a proven track record in the marketplace, and Oprah shines here like few others.
An even bigger point of contention right now revolves around women’s issues. In her speech, Oprah talked about how women have “endured years of abuse and assault,” and Oprah can speak from personal experience on this topic, striking at a particular weak point in Trump’s platform. Generally speaking, women aren’t happy about Trump’s attitude toward women, and a vote for Oprah would represent a push back against Trump’s behavior.
Oprah appeared to be directly addressing women’s issues from a presidential perspective when she concluded her speech by saying to young women that “a new day is on the horizon” and leadership will come that will put an end to sexual assault. That’s a good message whether Oprah decides to run or not.