Update: Oprah's BFF Gayle King now tells us all that it was "clearly a joke" and that it "ain't never happening." But still...
In a recent interview with Bloomberg TV’s David Rubenstein, the businessman and big-time philanthropist asked Winfrey, you know, one billionaire to another, what her plans were for 2020.... For her part, Winfrey, who has been in the TV business for nearly 40 years, paused for dramatic effect.“I never considered the question even a possibility,” she said, before adding, “I just thought, ‘Oh … oh?’ ”Without mentioning President Trump’s name, Rubenstein then pointed out that “it’s clear you don’t need government experience to be elected president of the United States.”“That’s what I thought,” Winfrey said. “I thought, ‘Oh, gee, I don’t have the experience, I don’t know enough.’ And now I’m thinking, ‘Oh.’ ”Could that be a possible campaign slogan in 2020? “Oh!” Stranger things have happened.
There's a lot to unpack here.
First off, it bears noting that Trump has flirted with the idea of Oprah as his running mate. He first suggested it in 1999, while entertaining another presidential bid. Then he said last year that he “would love to have Oprah” as his running mate.
Oprah declined and quickly endorsed Hillary Clinton — the second Democrat in a row she had endorsed. So assuming she doesn't just take him up on that offer and replace Vice President Pence, what if she ran against Trump?
While Trump entered his 2016 campaign with favorable numbers that looked disqualifying, Oprah is on quite the opposite end of the spectrum. She would start out broadly liked — more so than Trump and almost any politician in the nation. A 2011 poll from CBS News showed that 52 percent of Americans had a favorable view of her, vs. just 15 percent unfavorable. And a Fox News poll at the same time showed her split at 60/29. (Trump started his campaign at an astoundingly bad 16/71, and then things changed.)
Oprah's appeal seems to be pretty bipartisan. Even a few months after she endorsed Barack Obama in 2007, CBS's polling showed 54 percent of Republicans liked her, vs. just 13 percent who disliked her. But she clearly paid at least a little price with Republicans. Here's the Pew Research Center's poll from May 2008 (yes, there was a tracking poll of Winfrey's image ratings):
And Winfrey would certainly challenge Obama's ability to get black voters to the polls. In 2008, Pew polled African Americans about which national figures were the best influence on the black community. Winfrey was No. 1 — ahead of Bill Cosby (again, things change), Colin L. Powell, Bishop T.D. Jakes and even then-candidate Obama. Eighty-seven percent thought Winfrey was a positive influence, vs. just 2 percent who said she was a bad influence.
But before Democrats get too excited about the idea of Winfrey as the 46th president of the United States, here's a little cold water: People don't seem to be in love with the idea of her making big decisions that affect their lives.
A 2009 Fox News poll showed that 78 percent of Americans said she wouldn't be a good Supreme Court justice. (A little different from president, given she's not a lawyer, yes, but perhaps somewhat applicable.)
And then there was an automated survey from Democratic pollster Public Policy Polling in 2012. It showed that swing-state voters at the time said they would vote for Clint Eastwood over Oprah by a narrow margin of 42 percent to 38 percent. And this was Eastwood after the chair incident.
These are all very important polls and none of them — nor the conclusions we have drawn from them — should be questioned. Of course, as with Trump, every single one of them would be rendered moot the moment Oprah launched her campaign.
Especially after she descended her own escalator in her own gilded tower and promised every American: “You get a car!”