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Oprah’s Effect - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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“I am here to see Oprah.”

That was the automatic response stated by dozens who attended the two rallies held in Iowa for Democratic presidential candidate Barak Obama two weeks ago.

But the congregating crowd was not there to celebrate Obama alone…

In a world where celebrities in the media, cinema and politics occupy considerable standing in public life, Obama, who is part of the fierce race towards the White House, managed to secure the support of the most famous African-American presenter in the US, Oprah Winfrey. She is also the second most influential woman in America after Hillary Clinton, Obama’s rival candidate.

There is no doubt that those who aspire to reach top-level posts seek to gain celebrity support in their electoral campaigns, which is precisely what Hillary Clinton did after she gained the support of famous actress and singer Barbara Streisand; however the support that a huge television personality such as Oprah can offer remains stronger and more influential.

Oprah’s support for the Democratic candidate aspiring to be the first black American president to govern Washington has disturbed the balances for the organizers of electoral campaigns. This woman whose history is replete with ambitions, achievements and pitfalls can classify her today as the most expensive and highest-rated talk show host in the US, with an estimated weekly audience of 50 million viewers.

Thus, it did not come as a surprise that 29,000 people attended Obama’s Columbia rally, which forced the organizers to change the venue for a larger one capable of accommodating the big crowds. And all this was because of Oprah who Barak Obama’s wife did not hesitate to introduce as “the first lady of television”.

Before they had even exited the building at the end of the rally, the group working with Obama launched an intensive follow-up process in hope of gaining the votes of thousands of Oprah Winfrey fans. In less than 48 hours, not only did they manage to contact those who attended the rally but also some of their acquaintances from whom they tried to secure more votes.

The support that celebrities can offer political candidates with their ability to attract crowds and camera lenses is astounding. On the road to the American presidential seat it seems that Oprah’s impact can be translated into a few more votes; however, this could also create a big discrepancy between candidates. The polls immediately showed progress for Obama doubling his chances against competitor Clinton.

Moreover, the rallies held in Iowa indicated that Oprah’s audience is mainly comprised of African American women  which is exactly the type of voters Barrack Obama needs to win the elections.

Perhaps we can say that some voters may vote because their favorite star Oprah said that Obama is the best; however this does not mean that she was able to make voters actually listen to Obama’s words or believe in what he said.

Diana Moukalled

Diana Moukalled

Diana Moukalled is a prominent and well-respected TV journalist in the Arab world thanks to her phenomenal show Bil Ayn Al-Mojarada (By The Naked Eye), a series of documentaries on controversial areas and topics which airs on Lebanon's leading local and satelite channel, Future Television. Diana also is a veteran war correspondent, having covered both the wars in Iraq and in Afghanistan, as well as the Israeli "Grapes of Wrath" massacre in southern Lebanon. Ms. Moukalled has gained worldwide recognition and was named one of the most influential women in a special feature that ran in Time Magazine in 2004.

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