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Republicans Should Fear an Oprah 2020 Campaign

U.S. News & World Report logo U.S. News & World Report 1/12/2018 Katie Packer Beeson
The Associated Press: FILE - In this Nov. 20, 2013, file photo, Oprah Winfrey listens in the East Room of the White House in Washington, during a ceremony where President Barack Obama awarded Presidential Medals of Freedom. Faced with the presidential buzz surrounding Oprah Winfrey, President Donald Trump is steering clear of nasty nicknames and colorful insults, though he’s making clear who would win a celebrity showdown. “I’ll beat Oprah,” Trump said at a White House meeting Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File) © The Associated Press FILE - In this Nov. 20, 2013, file photo, Oprah Winfrey listens in the East Room of the White House in Washington, during a ceremony where President Barack Obama awarded Presidential Medals of Freedom. Faced with the presidential buzz surrounding Oprah Winfrey, President Donald Trump is steering clear of nasty nicknames and colorful insults, though he’s making clear who would win a celebrity showdown. “I’ll beat Oprah,” Trump said at a White House meeting Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

Editor’s note: The opinions in this article are the author’s, as published by our content partner, and do not necessarily represent the views of MSN or Microsoft.

At the Golden Globes on Sunday, Oprah Winfrey shocked the political system by giving a speech that suggested she might have higher aspirations than actress, talk show host and business mogul.

She spoke to women. Women who have felt silenced or powerless in the workplace because of the actions of a handful of corrupt men. She spoke to people of color. People who have felt excluded from opportunities because of stereotyping or typecasting that left them on the fringes of the main event in our culture. She spoke to America. An America that is tired, frustrated, at odds with one another, even in their own families, because events and players in Washington have pulled us apart at the seams.

She never spoke about policy. There was no mention of a wall, whether to build one or not to build one. There was no mention of abortion, taxes or nuclear arms. There was just Oprah, talking from her heart.

As I watched her speech, it didn't strike me as intentionally "political". It struck me that Oprah had a message to share and she wanted to make an impact, but she wasn't thinking in terms of ambitions for the presidency. But she spoke to America in that unique Oprah way and America remembered her and realized that it has missed her.

Immediately the lightbulbs started going off over the heads of those who long for someone who could go toe to toe with Donald Trump and buzz about her running for president swept the country. Her longtime partner, Stedman Graham and her best friend Gayle King did nothing to silence the buzz, both seeming to suggest it was something she might consider.

I noticed many Republicans immediately trying to pour cold water on her potential candidacy by suggesting that Oprah is just another liberal and that her policy positions would ultimately sink her once they came to light. But those people are missing something significant about Oprah: She's Oprah.

She might be just a better version of Hillary on paper, but presidential campaigns aren't run on paper. (And it should be said, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote and, but for a few thousand votes in about five states, would have won the electoral college too. A slightly better version of Clinton might be enough to beat Trump.)

Presidential campaigns are won in the hearts of voters. Since Kennedy and Nixon ran against each other in the dawn of the TV era, the more likeable candidate has won in virtually every presidential election. And people don't just like Oprah, they love her. For several generations of women, like me, she was a part of our lives. She came into our living room every day and taught us about relationships, child abuse, racism and politics. She taught us how to take care of our bodies, how to cook good food and she shared her struggles with body image in a way that made her relatable to all of us. She shared her friendships with famous people and got them to share with us, so we felt like they were our friends. And once a year, she shared with us her favorite things.

She made us feel good. And America is longing to feel good again.

Oprah represents a time when we weren't exhausted by the news. A time when we could talk to family and friends about current events without a fight breaking out over the dinner table. She has a natural ability to get people to lay down their arms and consider a different point of view. Don't believe me? Watch the shows where she invites white supremacists for a sit down.

And she is just as compelling one on one. In 2012, I met Oprah and King when they came to the Romney home in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire to interview Mitt and Ann Romney. She was engaging and inquisitive and acted as if we had known each other for years. She is nothing like Hillary Clinton and would be an incredibly effective campaigner.

Oprah is a behemoth. She's bigger than General Motors and U.S. Steel. And she isn't going to be cut down to size with a snarky nickname or a personal attack. In fact, she will be nearly impossible to attack effectively because everyone likes her and respects her. Attacks with no substance behind them will backfire and make the attacker look smaller.

Republicans will try to dismiss Oprah and will try to turn her into Hillary. And that would be easy to do if no one had an opinion of her. But they do. And it's almost universally positive. Trying to reduce her to a mortal politician will be a huge undertaking. I'm just glad it's not my job.

The best chance Republicans have against an Oprah 2020 campaign is to get on their knees every day between now and then, and pray to God that she doesn't run.

Copyright 2017 U.S. News & World Report

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