ABC News’ David Wright and Sunlen Miller report: The atmosphere was almost that of a tent revival. The preacher was quite possibly the most admired woman in America. In Des Moines and later in Cedar Rapids, Oprah Winfrey preached a political sermon on behalf of Barack Obama.
“It feels like I’m out of my pew, out of my terrain,” she admitted. “Backstage someone asked: Are you nervous?”
“You’re damned right I’m nervous,” she said, “because I have never done this before.”
Oprah sang Obama’s praises as “a very rare thing … a politician who has an ear for eloquence and a tongue dipped in the unvarnished truth.”
She exhorted her legion of fans.
“I’m not here to tell you what to think,” she said. “I’m here to ask you to think.”
And Oprah dismissed the Clinton campaign’s argument that Obama lacks the requisite experience to be president.
Oprah said, “Experience in the hallways of government isn’t as important to me as experience on the pathway to life. I challenge you to see through those people who try to tell you that experience in politics as usual is more valuable than wisdom outside the walls of Washington, D.C.”
While Oprah did not mention Obama’s top opponent by name, it was an obvious reference to Sen. Hillary Clinton.
Couching her argument in the language of a parent, spending quality time with their kids, Oprah almost seemed to chide Clinton and praise Obama at the same time.
“Time you spend in Washington means nothing,” she said, “unless you are accountable for the judgment you made in the time you had.”
Oprah said she had voted for many Democrats and Republicans in the past, but declared Obama “the one” for right now.
Thirty minutes into the program, Barack Obama took the stage, admitting that he may not be the reason some in the audience showed up.
“Some people are here to see Oprah, and I’m sort a byproduct of that,” and added that he’s grateful Oprah stepped out of her comfort zone to campaign for him.
An audience member interrupted Obama, yelling, “Oprah for VP,” a slogan which was on numerous buttons in the crowd.
Obama shot back, “But that would be a demotion. You understand that?”
When Obama began speaking, some audience members were seen filtering out of the room. Asked where they were going while the candidate was still speaking, most offered sheepish excuses.
“I have to go the bathroom,” said one woman.
Said another: “I’m late for a holiday party.”
For some, like Kerry Kennedy, the draw of Oprah may have been more impressive than Obama.
“I’m coming for Oprah," she said, "but I may stay for Obama.”
The Obama-Oprah duo has three more stops this campaign swing, hitting the other early states of South Carolina and New Hampshire.