With Hillary Clinton on Letterman on Thursday night and taping “The Ellen Show” on Friday, talk shows are more popular a campaign stop than ever. Some candidates, like John McCain, are visiting shows multiple times. ABCNews.com rounds up the latest bookings, which include Barack Obama on “The Tyra Banks Show” and Obama and Clinton doing “The View” next month. The reasons are obvious: It’s a friendlier environment, candidates have a chance to appear more human and they are reaching audiences they may not otherwise reach.
The irony in all of this that is not mentioned is that Oprah Winfrey has yet to schedule any of the candidates on her show. In elections past, her show has been a stopping off point for presidential contenders, particularly in the general election. Both George Bush and Al Gore visited in 2000.
But the booking of politicians on talk shows is creating dicey situations. Because she has endorsed Barack Obama, how is she going to interview Hillary Clinton without such an appearance being scrutinized for any hint of bias one way or another? Or during the general election, if Obama is the nominee, it would stand to reason that she would face the same scrutiny if she interviewed a GOP candidate. My guess is that she will steer clear of the candidates themselves, but I may be wrong.
In fact, Bill Clinton will appear on her show on Tuesday (as well as on “The Late Show with David Letterman”), to talk about his book, “Giving.” Surely the campaign will be addressed, and I would expect Winfrey to provide diplomatic words of priase for Hillary. In fact, the Clinton campaign is sending out messages promoting the appearance, perhaps to help blunt the impact of Winfrey’s endorsement of Obama. That will be on full display just days later, when Winfrey hosts Obama at her home for a much-anticipated fund-raiser.
The Obama camp obviously is more than thrilled that they have Winfrey’s endorsement, as they see it as on a totally different level than any other celebrity endorsement. Not only is she proving a big draw in rasiing money, but there is hope that she will appeal to women voters, especially those who may otherwise be inspired by Clinton’s candidacy. And if the price for this is that Oprah ends up having no candidate on her show this season, it is a small price to pay compared to the benefits they are expecting.
One more note: Winfrey probably could have Obama on her show and not invite any of the others. Officially, given past federal election decisions, it’s doubtful that any of these shows would have to abide by equal time rules, even though most invite all of the candidates to appear if they invite one. Letterman, Leno and DeGeneres are neutral, at least when it comes to fund-raising. They have not given to any candidate. Banks has given to Obama.