Can the Oprah Effect Make Obama President?

Oprah Winfrey to host a star-studded fundraiser for Obama this weekend.

ByABC News via logo
January 8, 2009, 12:29 AM

Sept. 6, 2007 — -- Oprah Winfrey's $50 million estate outside Santa Barbara, Calif., is called the Promised Land and from a political candidate's point of view, that may be no exaggeration.

A plug from Winfrey can turn a book into a best-seller and a movie into a blockbuster. But does the Oprah effect hold true for politics too? Can Winfrey's blessing turn a candidate into a president?

Winfrey told Larry King earlier this year that she was "going to become a political activist." She has never before played the kingmaker, but Saturday she will start by hosting a fundraiser for Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois.

"My support of him is probably worth more than any check that I could write," Winfrey told King.

The Saturday fundraiser is expected to raise at least $3 million for Obama.

There are a few rules for those attending the fundraiser, though. Cell phones and cameras are strictly banned. Guests will have to ride a bus to the Promised Land and sit on the grass once they get there.

"This won't be a limousine ride and a sweep up the red carpet, and sitting comfortably at a table," said Arianna Huffington, creator of the political blog

The guest list is a closely guarded secret. It reportedly includes Hollywood heavyweights such as Will Smith, Halle Berry, Jamie Foxx and John Travolta. Stevie Wonder is reportedly among the featured performers.

And the fundraiser is just the tip of the iceberg Winfrey could be a powerful spokeswoman in an Obama campaign ad.

"She's putting her brand next to his brand, and O plus O equals opportunity for Barack Obama to win in 2008," said ABC News consultant Donna Brazile.

The endorsement is a turning point for the megawatt talk show host.

"This is a pretty unique moment in Oprah's history, given how incredibly cautious she is, how protective she is of the Oprah brand," Huffington said.

Is there a potential downside for Winfrey? Could she lose viewers? Most say no at this point the only downside is that it could make viewers discount some of the other political interviews she conducts.