Election 2008

Oprah and Obama Tour Early-Voting States

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Oprah and Obama on the campaign trail

Oprah and Obama wave from the stage of a campaign event in Des Moines, Iowa. Scott Olson, Getty Images/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Scott Olson, Getty Images/Getty Images

TV host Oprah Winfrey campaigned this weekend with Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama. The media mogul and the Illinois senator talked to huge crowds in three key states, including a large rally in Columbia, S.C. Winfrey's television audience is nearly 75 percent female, which may help Obama steal away women voters from rival Sen. Hillary Clinton.


In the last days of the 2004 campaign, the losing candidate, John Kerry, campaigned with Bruce Springsteen. That celebrity support did not help, or at least didn't help enough. But this time around one candidate has an even bigger name on his side.

Oprah Winfrey campaigned over the weekend with Barack Obama. They traveled to Iowa and New Hampshire. And they found their largest crowds in South Carolina, as NPR's Audie Cornish reports.

AUDIE CORNISH: Winfrey's audience is nearly 75 percent female, and as Senator Barack Obama tries to steal away women voters from rival Senator Hillary Clinton, capturing the attention of Oprah fans like Nicole Dufor(ph) is key.

Ms. NICOLE DUFOR: I drove up from Florida for the - so I guess Oprah was the main reason. Traditionally, I'm a Republican, but I don't like any of the candidates this term. So I think that I'm going to go the other way.

CORNISH: And in South Carolina, getting the votes of African-American women like Tanya Martin(ph) of Beaufort is vital.

Ms. TANYA MARTIN: I think both of them are historic as far as the country is concerned, having a black male and a female. So - I mean, I want to be a part of that type of history. You know, to see a change in this nation like that would be, you know, incredible.

CORNISH: Both Dufor and Martin were among the dozens in line, fully six hours before the start of the event held at the football stadium at the University of South Carolina. But Martin is among the 30 percent of black women who will cast votes in the state's Democratic primary. She is still undecided and weighing her votes between Clinton and Obama.

Ms. MARTIN: The problem I have is that Hillary, she's been around for a long time and I do want to see a change.

CORNISH: And with Obama?

Ms. MARTIN: And Obama, the inexperience.

CORNISH: That's exactly the kind of concern Oprah Winfrey tried to take on in her tour for the campaign.

Ms. OPRAH WINFREY (Host, "The Oprah Winfrey Show"): I challenge you because the people are trying to tell you that this experience issue is the reason why you shouldn't vote for Barack Obama. Let me tell you, I challenge you to see through the people who try and convince you that experience with politics as usual is more valuable than the wisdom won from years of serving people outside the walls of Washington, D.C.

(Soundbite of applause)

CORNISH: In a voice left raspy from the previous night's stops in Iowa, Winfrey used a mix of both spiritual and secular language to describe her path from apathetic voter to inspired supporter. And she wasn't shy about speaking directly to the experiences of the mostly African-American audience, many who arrived after church in their Sunday best.

Ms. WINFREY: You know, Dr. King dreamed the dream. But we don't have to just dream the dream anymore. We get to vote that dream into reality...

(Soundbite of applause)

Ms. WINFREY: ...by supporting a man who knows not just who we are but knows who we can be.

CORNISH: For his part, the Hawaiian-born Illinois senator called on his wife's familial ties to the state to connect with the Southern audience. And while he didn't utter a name, he clearly worked to make the case for his nomination over the current Democratic frontrunner, Hillary Clinton.

Senator BARACK OBAMA (Illinois, Democrat): Don't let tell them tell you we got to wait. Our moment is now. See, I don't want to spend the next four years having the same old arguments and not getting nothing done in Washington. I don't want to pit red American against blue America. I want to be the president of the United States of America.

(Soundbite of applause)

CORNISH: While Winfrey told the crowd she understood the difference between her popular book clubs and the presidential election, on this sunny day in South Carolina she delivered a big numbers to Senator Obama's campaign. Nearly 30,000 turned out for the event - the largest crowd of any this primary season.

Audie Cornish, NPR News, Columbia, South Carolina.

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