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A surprise: Oprah pays a real cost for supporting Barack Obama

(UPDATE: This Ticket item has aroused so much interest, traffic and hundreds of comments that a new one has been published this morning. After you've read this item and are ready to go to the new one, just click here to read the reactions of hundreds of Oprah fans and former fans. Thanks for reading.)

Most of the attention on the O2 effect -- Obama and Oprah -- has been focused on how much the daytime TV cult leader helped her home state senator by endorsing him and appearing at all those rallies in Iowa and South Carolina with Barack and Michelle.Daytime TV diva Oprah Winfrey's support of Illinois Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama and his wife Michelle turns out to have cost her perhaps more than she helped him

The 54-year-old Chicago TV hostess certainly helped raise a hefty chunk of change by loaning out her estate for that Obama fundraiser last summer.

Oprah Winfrey has long enjoyed an immense popularity tied to her long-running daytime TV show, which started in 1986, and helped give her favorable ratings around 78% by 1996. So well known is she that one name will suffice, as in our headline.

In one 1999 survey of the most admired and respected 20th-century women, Oprah (26%) came in only second to Mother Teresa (33%), who didn't have her own TV show. And in 2003 a Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll found that 60% thought Oprah was a more powerful woman than someone named Hillary Clinton, a former first lady and senator, who drew only 28%.

Fourteen months ago, a Gallup/USA Today poll found 74% of Americans had a favorable view of the TV personality.

Then on May 1 last year, Oprah announced during....

the Larry King show that she was, for the first time, going to throw her considerable weight behind a political candidate -- Obama.  King's suspenders nearly snapped.

“I think," she told old Lar, "that my value to him, my support of him, is probably worth more than any check.” Although, to be honest, her estimated $2.5 billion in wealth could buy an awful lot of TV ads in Indiana. It might even be able to purchase the Hoosier State. 

But little attention has been paid to the effect of Obama on Oprah. Now along comes Costas Panagopoulos, an assistant professor of political science at New York's Fordham University, to ask and answer just that question.

Writing at Politico.com, he suggests the aging empress of TV has paid a price for getting into the dirty business of politics with and for her man Barack. By August last year, a CBS poll found her favorabMother Teresa who beat out TV talk-show hostess and billionaire Oprah Winfrey as most admired woman of the 20th centuryle rating had plunged from 74% to 61%, still twice as good as the president but nearly a 20% drop.

Around Thanksgiving she announced that not only was she supporting Obama, but she would campaign with him and we'd see if her political recommendation carried as much weight as her book recommendations. Oprah's political travels produced a media feeding frenzy and a publicity bonanza with women routinely fainting in the front row. The campaign said her rallies produced 10,000 new volunteers.

Winfrey campaigned for Obama in Iowa, which he won, in South Carolina, where he won, and in New Hampshire, where he lost. We haven't heard much about Winfrey since the voting started. Did she realize something we're just getting?  We heard only that she left the controversial Rev. Jeremiah Wright's Trinity United Church of Christ several years ago, reportedly over some of his more militant sermons that Obama says he never heard.

But 10 days after the campaign media explosion her favorable rating had dropped further to 55% and her unfavorable ratings for the first time climbed to 1 in 3.

A December ABC/Washington Post poll of Democrats found 8% were persuaded by her Obama endorsement, 82% said it wouldn't matter either way and 10% said her recommendation had turned them off Obama.

Now, Panagopoulos has discovered an AOL TV popularity survey of 1.35 million Americans that found 46% said the daytime TV host who "made their day" was Ellen DeGeneres while only 19% chose Winfrey. Forty-seven percent said they'd like to have dinner with Ellen, while only 14% chose Oprah.

Apparently, neither Ellen nor Oprah were asked who they'd like to dine with.

Panagopoulos draws the conclusion that in these days of pervasive media, in reality, celebrity endorsements run the real risk of costing the celebrity more than they benefit the endorsee. So celebs may want to think twice before hitting the stump.

But then how many hundred million dollars a year does an assistant professor at Fordham pull down?

-- Andrew Malcolm

Photo credit: Newsday, Archdiocese of Colombo

 
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Well said, Ms. Lafawnduh! I am a hispanic american. I wasn't one of the hispanic americans that registered to vote in 2008 to vote for Obama. I educated myself in what he stood for and I agree with EVERYTHING you wrote. The universal healthcare system is one this country will soon regret. Read up on Canada's universal healthcare system and see how this will affect our hospitals and our country. It worries me that Obama lied over and over in his campaign. He stated he did not know who an organization his wife is currently is a member of, was and he now admits to speaking at one of their engagements. It worries me that his wife's college dissertation regarding racism was taken off the internet so no one could read until after the Nov. 4 election. How do we trust a man that lied on so many levels during his campaign? It worries me that when many americans (white, black, hispanic) were asked why they voted for Obama, didn't know what his views were on many issues and did not really know why they voted for him. Where are we heading?.....It scares me to think what the next four years will bring us. For his re-election.....please OPRAH and all americans....EDUCATION YOURSELVES!!!!!

i hate obama

I don't trust Oprah any longer, she preach her believe and show is getting boring. I don't watch her show. I don't know who he is Obama there for I did not vote for him.
I don't trust lawyer any way.

hi, i dont like obama or oprah and yes it was all about the first black man 44th president and now that is so.But lets give him a chance to make a fool out of his self because it will take a miricle to fix this place and all obamas &oprah,s money dont even come close.And out of any time in life to be the first black president he got the worst end of the stick there was.i am a white person and if he can MAKE A CHANGE like he says i might vote for him next time,but if he falls all blacks will look bad very very bad.

61 is around 82% of 74, so a drop from 74% to 61% means that nearly 20% of the people that *previously* supported her no longer do, hence saying that she lost almost 20% of *her* (not all) support is more true than saying she only lost 13%. So to the guy saying go back to school, ditto to you too!

Maybe Oprah should 'come out ot the closet' so she should get better numbers, like Ellen D. That would at least appeal to Gays and Lesbians like Nina, who seems pretty full of hate herself to make the comments she does. Oprah needs to cling to a special audience that hates as much as Nina! They would love that!

Silly comment about Hannity/Fox fans not liking Oprah. I was a fan of Oprah long before I ever watched Fox or Hannity. However, I have recently switched her off because I cannot ignore the fact that she, whether intending to or not, helped put a socialist in the White House. Unless commonsense Americans fight like Hell over the next year, we will lose many of the freedoms we hold dear. In barely more than 5 months, we have witnessed the nationalization of banks and auto companies, the firing of CEOs, already large deficits explode in out-of-control spending, and threats to our freedom of speech through "localism" and "diversity" to be imposed on talk radio. Obama and the liberal Democrats she helped elect are a train wreck that will cause this country untold harm unless they can be stopped...all because she INTENDED to do a good thing by helping to elect the first black American President. As the old saying goes, "the road to Hell is paved with good intentions". It is very painful to me to turn my back on her after so many years of being a loyal fan, but I have no choice given the fact that her carelessness will cause such damage to me and mine.

Her ratings have been falling for 5 years, but the election and her support of one person is what pushed the ratings to an all time low. I have not watched her show since that point.

Everyone should have a choice and a preference. However, celebrities should know (or should have learned by now), you can't go public with your politcal views or you most surely will lose half of your audience and they do need their audience! I personally am disappointed in Oprah, she has ruined herself with the influence she thought she had.

Who cares? Her opinions don't pay my bills

wow

I don't think this is just a reflection on Opra.. rather it's a reflection on all of society that supported President Obama. He's not become the president that he proposed to become during the campaign. The extreme attitudes of many of his associates were discounted. After all, once in office he can't be that radical. Well, we were wrong. The folks we felt would have to be cast aside or left behind, were invited into his inner circle. Now we have a President insulated from reality. His political power shaped in the trenches with no real world experiences of dealing in business or the impact of economic measures. All the blame being passed to previous administrations is getting old. Guantanamo is still open, the war in Afghanistan is still expanding, unemployement is still rising, debt is soaring, and still he plods on with healthcare that the public has not embraced, with Cap and trade that will only raise the cost of everything, with global warming that is imploding into a mess of lies, deceit and photo shopped pictures. No I don't think this is just Opras problem. It's a problem for all Americans.

HI.I WAS LUCKY TO WATCH THE OPRAH SHOW WHEN PRESIDENT BARAK WAS THERE.HE IS SO "US" and very insperational and so are OPRAH.I LOVED THE INTERVJU AND NORWAY WOULD BE LUCLY TO HAVE A PRESIDENT LIKE BARAK.I HAVE SAID IT SOME TIMES NOW.MY BIGGEST WHISH IS TO COME TO AMEREICA ON OPRAH SHOW,AND SEE EVERYTHING.I HAVE WHISS FOR THIS CINCE I WAS 14 YEARS.I KNOW THAT NOT EVERYTHING COMES TRUE.LAST BUT NOT LEST..BARAK AND OPRAH IS TWO PEOPLE I REALY LUCK UP TO WHIT SO MUTCH RESPECKT. L.O.V.E from Kristin in Oslo/Norway KEEP UP THE GREATE WORK.

Too bad but it looks like ORPHANED WINDFREAK is losing support for supporting americas worst all time presidents

I lost respect for Oprah, I thought she was smarter than
that. Now I know that she is pro African with her support of Obama, who does not deserve any applause.

You blew it Oprah, how could you be so stupid, especially with Rev. Wright in the picture!

 
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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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