Wednesday, September 05, 2007

What Oprah Can Do for Obama

The money, power and influence are as obvious as the racial kinship. But there may be something more significant in Oprah Winfrey’s decision to go all-out for Barack Obama.

What she can bring to his campaign is the human connection with voters--the empathy that has made her the world’s most influential woman and that has so far been missing in Obama’s public persona.

For all the passion and fervor he aroused last year, Obama has remained a rather distant figure--cerebral, well-spoken and tentative as an in-fighter--through the early months of Presidential debating. In some ways, the idea of him has been more appealing than the actuality.

This weekend, at her California estate, Winfrey will be raising an anticipated $3 million for the candidate. That could be only a start.

"My money isn't going to make any difference,” she has said. “My value to him--my support of him--is probably worth more than any other check that I could write."

But the influence that can make best-sellers out of obscure books is not the issue. The phenomenon that is Oprah rests on her combination of openness, vulnerability and steely determination that has attracted millions of devoted admirers.

Barack and Michelle Obama are well-educated, highly attractive people from upper-middle-class America. If Oprah can pass on to them a measure of the warmth and compassion that brought her from the depths of poverty to the pinnacle of wealth and power, that could be her greatest contribution of all.

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