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The ‘O’ factor

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Celebrity endorsements of political candidates is nothing new. There is always at least one celebrity who puts his or her hat in the ring and supports a candidate. Actor Michael J. Fox joined in during the 2004 election cycle along with musician Bruce Springsteen, who drew over 80,000 people when he appeared with John Kerry in Madison.

Now, Oprah Winfrey is taking a stab at the endorsement game by supporting U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill.

Oprah’s powerful persona will have an impact on the 2008 primaries.

In a McClatchy-Tribune article printed in The Spectator, Oprah joined up with Obama in Iowa, drawing nearly 18,000 in their first event in Des Moines. By the end of her tour with Obama, experts expect hundreds of thousands to have turned out to see the two.

Oprah is a very powerful woman. Her followers border on being cult-like, heeding her every recommendation from books, to tips, to gift ideas.

Though she claims influencing voters to vote for a candidate is different than influencing them to buy books, she will impact the election in one way or another.

First, there is the possibility that she directly impacts the outcome of the Democratic primaries by getting enough people to vote for Obama. However, this is probably the least likely outcome to arise.

An alternative would be her ability to get voters to pay more attention to the political process. If voters don’t necessarily vote for Obama, her support might cause people to examine his ideals and compare them to other candidates’ platforms, getting them to partake in the democratic process of elections.

We may never know what effect Oprah played on voters, even after the elections are over. However, if more voters do show up to the polls because of Oprah, it will be a glimpse of the character of the country as a whole – that it takes a celebrity to draw Americans out to the polls.

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The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.
The ‘O’ factor