Why Oprah Is No Longer Part of the Big "O"
Finally we are entering a part of the primary season where it is so blatantly obvious that Mitt Romney will win the nomination that we can start being concerned with the pointless minutia of the candidates and campaigns. Silly side stories like "Does it matter if Mitt Romney has a 12 million dollar Barbie Dream House" or "Is it Obama's fault if a bunch of government employees made it rain all weekend in Vegas".
But the biggest side story of the day is Oprah Winfrey, who along with P. Diddy, Matt Damon and Will I. Am is being trotted out as another celebrity who is no longer down with the "Big O" experience (meaning Obama, of course!).
On the CBS Morning Show Monday Oprah said that she would not be "out there" campaigning for Obama this year because she's trying to save her OWN network from tanking faster than Current TV. Of course, tongues in the press started wagging immediately as some speculated this was another sign of Obama's waning support across the board and others pointed out that Oprah was a key part of his campaign success in 2008. There is a sexiness to the narrative that incumbent president Obama is the fading celebrity whose Hollywood friends have abandoned him ... or that he has fallen from selling out stadiums to doing cover songs in Vegas. This story fits that storyline perfectly.
Unfortunately it's just not true.
Oprah's entire statement makes it abundantly clear that she is still completely behind Obama:
I'm not going to be out there. I am 100 percent behind our president. I actually love our president and have the up most respect for him and that office and what it takes to be there. I will not be out because I'm trying to fix a network.
Considering the fact that Oprah just hosted a big fancy fundraiser at $35,000 a plate for Obama a month ago, this does not sound like a woman who's jumping off the Hope Train ... just yet. The truth is that not being out on the campaign trail is more about Oprah than it is about Barack Obama. Political science research has shown that while Oprah Winfrey's endorsement of Barack Obama may have helped him in primary states against Hillary, stepping out politically in favor of a candidate hurt her favorability ratings amongst some of her fans.
In other words: Oprah may have helped Obama a bit more than he helped her.
More importantly, she is desperately trying to save her television network, which has had major turnover and difficulty finding footing. The last thing the former Queen of daytime talk needs to be doing is running around the country campaigning when her own media house isn't in order. Besides, given that Michelle Obama has been on The Biggest Loser, The Kids Choice Awards, David Letterman and Jimmy Fallon within the last month, it's pretty clear that the Obama campaign already has a popular television personality running around stumping for him.
DR. JASON JOHNSON, Politic365 Chief Political Correspondent, is a professor of Political Science at Hiram College in Ohio and author of the book Political Consultants and Campaigns: One Day to Sell. You can read more at http://www.drjasonjohnson.com%20or follow him on Twitter @Drjasonjohnson