A pause for some politics: Hillary is having a National Women’s Summit Conference at which, for $2300 you can have a picture taken with the Senator. If you don’t care about the photo op, the price is reduced to $1000. Obviously, just working class women can’t go. They will not be able to hear Mandy Grunwald or Mark Penn talk about the message. They will not learn about how to run a campaign from Patty Solice. They are not going to spend their money on this kind of event because they need to feed, educate and clothe their children, pay health care costs for their families and if they are anywhere from 50-65, they are probably caring for an elderly loved one. If you think I don’t like Hillary you would be wrong. I am not going to the summit because I’m traveling and I have heard it all before at a finance meeting. I like Hillary a lot. I think she would probably make a good President. And I will work for her if she gets the nomination. That being said, I would like to see a little more attention paid to women who can’t afford to go to a Summit fundraiser. As far as I know, at least in the metropolitan DC area, there has only been one small ticket event. An event that would attract young women and working women and homemakers and women who have not yet been given the opportunity to succeed. And I know these women must be in Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina and just about everywhere in the country. Obama knows it as well and everywhere he goes he does a big ticket and a small ticket event.
Oprah has endorsed Obama. This has consequences beyond a celebrity endorsement. First of all, Oprah is the friend of all the women I just mentioned. Oprah is the connection between Obama and women who can vote. Notice I said can vote. They might not vote without a reason. But then, so many of them weren’t reading before Oprah started her book club. These women are the same women Hillary was counting on to put “a woman” in the White House. Wasn’t it William Bendix in "Life of Riley" who said “What a revolting development this is”. That’s how the Hillary people must feel. Additionally, the Hillary staff is probably whining about how they wanted to meet Oprah.
Celebrity endorsements can be more trouble than they’re worth because they are never without complications. For example, they may give you their time for free but their hairdresser and travel runs into the thousands. Or, as the candidates surrogate, they may say something stupid or even offensive. The demands are often high and the expectations even higher. In some of the Presidential campaigns on which I worked I was the celebrity or surrogate scheduler and could I tell you stories! But I won’t because I don’t “tell tales out of school.” Well just one. When I was working in the Hart campaign I had telephone numbers for many movie stars. It was not until long after the campaign ended that I found out Seth had decided that he needed to talk to Jack Nicholson. Actually, Seth decided that Jack wanted to talk to him. I’m not sure if they ever connected but it was colorful. Suffice to say, having a celebrity endorsement is sometimes problematic. But they are often important for many reasons. Bruce Springstein walked hundred of students right from a concert to a place where they could register to vote. Lot’s of young people registered to vote because they were inspired by a celebrity endorsement. Unfortunately, they registered but they didn’t vote in 2004 but that’s a whole other blob.
Back to O and O. I heard Oprah talk about her decision to endorse Obama on the Larry King show. And I have to say that she wasn’t able to articulate any real reasons for the decision but that didn’t matter. She doesn’t have to understand policy in order to feel strongly about a candidate. And she clearly feels like she wants to devote her resources to putting him in office. It might work if she understands the power of her target audience. And my bet is that she does. So what is she actually going to do? Let’s make a list – here are 5 things. I’m sure you can add to it. Tonight she is throwing a $2300 celebrity fundraiser. It’s not a Summit, it’s just a place to be seen. My guess is that (1.) she will ask her friends to help in some way, either financial or as surrogates. (2.) She has said she will not have candidates other than Obama on her show. Around 4 million people (mostly women) watch the show. (3.) She will donate money and time – for commercials etc. (4.) There will probably be features in the magazine. (5.) She will not give advice—other than about things with which she has some expertise, like marketing and messaging.
So you ask, Is there a downside to an Oprah endorsement? In all honesty (there I go again with the honesty thing), I don’t know. Celebrities attract attention but in the end, don’t usually make a difference. Obviously, there are people who don’t like Oprah or don’t like Black people, or don’t like women. But those are not people who would vote for Obama with or without an endorsement. I guess if Oprah began acting like the campaign manager or appeared to interfere with campaign workings that could be a downside. But that usually doesn’t happen unless the celebrity and the candidate grew up together or the spouse is an old friend—those people always interfere with the campaign. And maybe if the press go after Oprah and she blurts some kind of obscenity that might be a negative. But this is a woman who took on the Beef industry and defeated them. So it’s unlikely that she will make many mistakes.
Here’s the so called bottom line. Women are going to decide the election. They may decide they like Rudy and his three marriages, Kucinich and his straight talk or Huckabee and his sense of humor. They are going to vote for the candidate to whom they can relate and who they think will really make a difference in their lives. And women are smart and intuitive about who is telling the truth and who is full of crap. But there has to be a reason for them to take time out of a busy day and go to the polls. If Hillary can do this with Bill’s help (he’s a damn good surrogate) then she will win. If Oprah can give them a reason, in addition to what Obama can do, he will be in good shape. And if John Edwards can get his wife to campaign often and actively, then the other candidates better watch out. We’re just sayin...Iris