Obama and Oprah Make Splash in S.C. Media powerhouse Oprah Winfrey took to the campaign trail with Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama this weekend. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton campaigned with her mother and daughter.
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Obama and Oprah Make Splash in S.C.

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Obama and Oprah Make Splash in S.C.

Obama and Oprah Make Splash in S.C.

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Andrea Seabrook.

Media powerhouse Oprah Winfrey made her political debut this weekend. Winfrey has never formally endorsed a candidate before but has now decided to throw her support behind Illinois Senator Barack Obama.

Winfrey drew thousands in Iowa, where she made two campaign stops yesterday. And it seems even more in Columbia, South Carolina, where she spoke just a few hours ago at the University of South Carolina.

Ms. OPRAH WINFREY (Host, "The Oprah Winfrey Show"): I've never done this before. But this is what I also know, if you keep on doing the same thing…

(Soundbite of crowd cheering)

Ms. WINFREY: …the same way all the time, you get the same results. You got to step out of your box.

(Soundbite of crowd cheering)

Ms. WINFREY: You got to step up.

(Soundbite of crowd cheering)

Ms. WINFREY: We can step out of our box and dream America anew again by supporting Barack Obama.

SEABROOK: NPR's Audie Cornish is there and joins us now.

Audie, what is the scene there in South Carolina?

AUDIE CORNISH: Well, there were just thousands of people here. Many were dressed sort of like in their Sunday clothes. The event was in the afternoon sort of after-church hours and there were lots of families, and it was a mostly an African-American crowd. And I think that you could sort of hear that in the speeches that both Oprah Winfrey gave and Barack Obama.

Here is a cut of the senator speaking when he took the stage.

Senator BARACK OBAMA (Democrat, Illinois; Presidential Candidate): She and I share an improbable story. Nobody could expect that we would be on this stage here today.

CORNISH: And I think that what you're hearing there was a little bit of both Barack Obama and Oprah Winfrey speaking to what some of the indecision both say they've been hearing especially from African-American voters, who are still weighing the experience factor and maybe some sort of allegiance or familiarity that they have with Hillary Clinton versus what they see in the potential of Barack Obama's, and specifically in an African-American candidate.

SEABROOK: Audie, that cut almost sounds like he could have given the sermon today at church.

CORNISH: It was very much that kind of conversation. I mean, Oprah Winfrey spent the first few minutes of her speech talking about how she's used to being in the pew of television. I mean, she was saying pew but she very easily could have said pulpit.


CORNISH: She has enormous power in media, in general, and I think that she recognized what she was trying to, sort of, lend to his campaign. And I think that he recognized that as well in talking about, sort of, being thankful for her lending her name to him. I mean, it's obviously a very important moment for her personally, and she tried to make that clear to the crowd.

SEABROOK: Barack Obama has Oprah Winfrey campaigning through three states that are key here, but very different from each other: Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina. Which voters are they targeting in these states?

CORNISH: It was clear this weekend that for most of the campaign, and especially this one, it's all about women and women voters. In Iowa, 54 percent of the Democratic primary vote are women. And those are women who skew a little bit older. It's similar in New Hampshire. And in South Carolina, that drills down a little further to African-American women who make up 30 percent of the Democratic primary vote.

And there are - many of them you can read in news story. And I talk to people here today who still say, well, it's down to Obama or Clinton. And it's a conversation that they're having all over the state, one that the candidates are trying to get in on in terms of visiting barber shops and beauty salons. And you could see in terms of the response from the other campaign, say Hillary Clinton who campaigned with her mother and daughter, that people were out there trying to show women this is the choice you should make.

SEABROOK: Any response from the other campaigns to the Oprah Winfrey with Obama?

CORNISH: Well, I say, it led you to Hillary Clinton not only campaigned with her mother and daughter, she dispatched former President Bill Clinton to South Carolina to speak to a black sorority, which is a chapter of the sorority, and that happened pretty quickly. It was arranged for Saturday.

And, meanwhile, the Edwards campaign kind of corralled a bunch of black leaders and supporters from the region onto a media conference call on Friday, where some of those people said, you know, this isn't about celebrity and African-American voters are not swayed by any particular celebrity or voice.

But I think that Obama's campaign knew that this was an opportunity to just capture at least the eyeballs from the Oprah audience and didn't see it as she was going to convert both.

SEABROOK: Mm-hmm. NPR's Audie Cornish in Columbia, South Carolina.

Thanks, Audie.

CORNISH: Thank you.

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