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How Oprah Will Help Obama, and How She Won't

Posted by libhom Sunday, December 09, 2007

Form Time online 12/9/07

Obama's Oprah offensive was calibrated not just to get women's support — though of course, that would be nice — but to get Iowa's women to pay attention to the race full stop. In 2004, just 66,690 of 340,241 female registered Democrats in Iowa caucused. Even a few thousand more could make a difference; sure enough, with Oprah as a sweetener, 1,385 people (no gender statistics were available) worked four-hour volunteer shifts for Obama in order to qualify for a ticket to Winfrey's appearance. (The campaign distributed a total of 12,000 tickets to supporters with another 11,000 given away online.)

In a state like Iowa, people are bombarded with communication from candidates. It is only natural and sane for them to tune most of it out. Once thing Oprah could do and succeeded at is to get people to show up and listen to Obama. That alone will make a difference in any state, but an especially large one in Iowa.

Another benefit for Obama is that one of the nation's most prominent African-American women is supporting him. This is significant, since Obama trails Clinton nationally among black women by about 15 points.

Oprah's support also should increase the level of enthusiasm among Obama's supporters. This translates to increasing volunteer support (beyond the four hours required to get into that Iowa event) and should help with fundraising too.

In a caucus state like Iowa, only a small percentage of eligible voters participate. Also, caucus meetings often end up being long, endurance contests which result in some people going home before they are over. Ms. Winfrey's effect will be magnified by the particular nature of caucuses. The candidate who gets people to show up and stay wins.

What Oprah won't do for Obama is to directly deliver significant numbers of votes. Fans will read a book on Oprah's recommendation in part because the choice of a book is lower in risk than the choice of a president. In a presidential campaign, voters naturally would be expected to listen to a variety of sources before making up their own minds.

1 Responses to How Oprah Will Help Obama, and How She Won't

  1. Larry Says:
  2. Another benefit of Oprah's presence is everyone who attends their events must fill out a card with their contact information, thus creating a database that Hillary doesn't have.

     

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