Oprah hits campaign trail for Obama

ByABC News
December 9, 2007, 8:01 AM

DES MOINES -- Oprah Winfrey, the second-most admired woman in America, drew roughly 18,500 people in support of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama Saturday in Des Moines.

Her campaign trail support is Obama's campaign's latest effort to best his competition, particularly the most admired woman in America Hillary Clinton, according to a Gallup poll in the nose-to-nose race to the White House. Winfrey came in second in that 2006 survey.

"I am not here to tell you what to think, I'm here to ask you to think," Winfrey said to a cheering crowd.

The event sported one of the largest Iowa crowds so far in the 2008 race for president. Attendance even outpaced mammoth Democratic fundraisers such as Sen. Tom Harkin's annual steak fry in September where 15,000 people attended.

Winfrey, who was introduced by Obama's wife Michelle, spoke for about 20 minutes at Des Moines' Hy-Vee Hall. She told the screaming crowd that she has voted for as many Republicans in her life as Democrats. She added that Saturday marked the first time in her career that she has officially endorsed and campaigned for any candidate because "if we continue to do the same things over, and over and over again, I know that you get the same results."

"We don't know what the future holds so we must respond to the pressures and the fortunes of history when the moment strikes and, Iowa, I believe that moment is now," Winfrey said.

Winfrey, a talk show host, is viewed as one of the most influential entertainers in the world. But her influence on politics is untested and it doesn't guarantee a windfall of support for Obama.

In general, political experts agree that celebrity endorsements have little influence upon voters. The exception, however, may be the size of crowds drawn by Winfrey's appearance who, in turn, hear Obama speak. But the key question remains if those people will transform into voters.

A USA TODAY/Gallup Poll released in October found 8% of adults said Winfrey's endorsement made them more likely to support Obama, while 10% said it would make them less likely to back him.