WASHINGTON — Oprah Winfrey’s Golden Globes speech has revived notions that she is considering a 2020 presidential bid, a prospect that she has previously dismissed.
CNN reported on Monday that two close friends of hers say that she is “actively considering” a bid, while her longtime partner, Stedman Graham, added fuel to the speculation when he told the Los Angeles Times after the ceremony that she “absolutely” would do it.
Winfrey was asked last year about the possibility of a presidential bid and, while indicating that the idea is not so far fetched, seemed to dismiss it. But her speech at the Globes, in which she evoked themes of unity, hope, and inclusion, could be a counterweight to the politics of Washington and, even though she did not invoke him by name, President Donald Trump.
Winfrey campaigned for Barack Obama in Iowa and other states in 2007 and 2008, and her endorsement was thought to have greatly improved his chances to break through and overcome the opposition of Hillary Clinton. At the time, Winfrey was still hosting her daily influential syndicated talk show, and had not yet endorsed a candidate before. Her appearances drew Obama’s largest crowds up to that point.
She also campaigned for Obama again in 2012, but largely stayed out of the 2016 contest.
While Winfrey has stepped into the political fray, she rarely goes on the attack, something that could be a challenge in a rough-and-tumble Democratic primary and general election. Her background would come under scrutiny like never before, and that was apparent shortly after she gave her Globes speech and detractors shared a photo of her kissing Harvey Weinstein on the cheek.
If she were to run, though, she could emerge as a frontrunner by her name recognition alone. That, too, could be a liability, as it would set expectations high from the start.
Her speech — while written for her acceptance of a Golden Globe special award — was also the type of rhetoric meant to inspire large crowds on the campaign trail or a political convention.
“I’ve interviewed and portrayed people who’ve withstood some of the ugliest things life can throw at you, but the one quality all of them seem to share is an ability to maintain hope for a brighter morning, even during our darkest nights,” she said.
Winfrey has in the past dismissed the idea of running for office. In October, she told CBS News that “There will be no running for office of any kind for me.” Despite reports that she may be reconsidering it, she herself hasn’t said that she is weighing a bid.
In Washington, the prospect of a Winfrey candidacy quickly dominated news coverage. Billionaire Tom Steyer, at a press conference announcing that he would invest in organizing and other campaign efforts in the midterms, was asked whether he could support her. While praising her speech at the Globes, he said that he as focused on 2018.
Bill Kristol, the conservative columnist who is anti-Trump, laid out the case for her advantages in a 2020 race.
Hogan Gigley, a White House spokesman, was asked about the speculation of a Winfrey run and said, “We welcome the challenge, whether it be Oprah Winfrey or anybody else.”