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December 10, 2007
Huge Crowd for Oprah-Obama in South Carolina
The audience at the University of South Carolina football stadium was estimated at 29,000 - easily the largest crowd of this campaign and one of the largest for a non-incumbent president in American political history.
And they came to see Oprah Winfrey and Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama in what has been billed as "The Double-O Express" made a stop in South Carolina to boost Obama's candidacy in a state where half the Democratic voters are black:
And Ms. Winfrey knew her audience. From the moment she stepped on stage — to Aretha Franklin’s “Think” — she established a connection. Referring to her upbringing in Mississippi and Tennessee, she said: No one knows what impact Winfrey's endorsement will carry. Even before her appearance in South Carolina, a new McClatchey-MSNBC poll has Obama in a statistical dead heat in the state with Hillary Clinton. And it is equally uncertain just what impact on African American voters her appearances with the Illinois senator will have nationwide. The black community has been supportive of Obama's candidacy but he has split the black vote with Mrs. Clinton. If those voters decide to switch, Obama will suddenly become a very dangerous candidate in the south and some of the larger states like Florida and Texas.
“I know something about growing up in the South and know about what it means to come from the South and be born in 1954.” She did not spell out that 1954 was the year of the landmark Supreme Court decision in Brown vs. Board of Education that desegregated the public schools, but it is a year with resonance in American racial history. Nor did she explicitly acknowledge that she was addressing a largely black audience about a black candidate. Rather, she spoke, in a somewhat raspy voice, with understood aspiration.
“It’s just amazing grace that I get to stand here on this South Carolina stage to talk about the man who’s going to be the next president of the United States,” she said. Mr. Obama, she said, “speaks to the potential inside every one of us.” Ms. Winfrey noted that some say Mr. Obama should “wait his turn.” But, she said, “I wouldn’t be where I am if I waited on the people who told me it couldn’t be.” The audience erupted with applause.
Winfrey also drew large crowds in Iowa with Obama in tow and her impact there will also be under scrutiny. Regardless of what occurs, Winfrey has certainly given the Obama campaign a boost in excitement.