Bad news: It looks like we won’t get Oprah Winfrey to participate in the Celebrity Grudge Match in the 2020 presidential race. Good news: We still have Cher as a possibility. The highest-profile Democratic prospect has seemingly removed herself from the running, telling InStyle’s Laura Brown that it’s not in her DNA:
LB: And you speak for so many. How do you feel when people say, “Oprah 2020”?
OW: [Laughs] I actually saw a mug the other day … I thought it was a cute mug. All you need is a mug and some campaign literature and a T-shirt. I’ve always felt very secure and confident with myself in knowing what I could do and what I could not. And so it’s not something that interests me. I don’t have the DNA for it. Gayle—who knows me as well as I know myself practically—has been calling me regularly and texting me things, like a woman in the airport saying, “When’s Oprah going to run?” So Gayle sends me these things, and then she’ll go, “I know, I know, I know! It wouldn’t be good for you—it would be good for everyone else.” I met with someone the other day who said that they would help me with a campaign. That’s not for me.
People have been dismissing Oprah since the speculation arose after her Golden Globes speech. They point to some of the problematic connections from her talk shows (anti-vaxxers and other less-than-credible health initiatives especially), and point to the Democrats on the presidential bench. They have Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Tim Kaine, Cory Booker, and so on. A week ago, Obama campaign guru told ABC’s Jon Karl that as many as 24 nationally known Democrats were considering a 2020 run, calling it “a historic bench.”
Gee, where have we heard that before? Oh yeah, we said it about the 2016 GOP hopefuls, 16 of which did throw their hats in the ring, and all of whom got trounced by … a billionaire TV show host with lots of problematic business and personal connections. Don’t think for a moment that Democrats (other than the “historic” benchwarmers) are breathing a sigh of relief at Oprah’s pass. An Oprah-Trump campaign would have been epic for them.
It might still not have been successful, though, but not because of Oprah herself. As I’ve written before, the celebrity-presidency concept rises and falls on Trump’s performance. If he does well, Trump gets re-elected no matter who runs against him; if he crashes and burns, American voters will turn to more traditional profiles of experience and competence, and perhaps even dullness. In that sense, Amy Klobuchar might be the biggest contrast available to Democrats, although Tim Kaine would come in a close second and might have the pole position after 2016.
Besides, it’s not all bad news for Democrats. Oprah’s raised her political profile and will undoubtedly want to participate in other ways for the 2020 cycle, and Democrats can certainly find room for her cash.