Oprah Winfrey delivered a rallying cry to women and hope for “a new day” when receiving the Cecile B. DeMille Award at the 2018 Golden Globes. (Erin Patrick O’Connor/The Washington Post)
From Hollywood to Iowa, a sudden wave of enthusiasm for Oprah Winfrey as a potential presidential candidate swept through the Democratic Party on Monday, beginning as a social-media sensation after her rousing remarks at Sunday night’s Golden Globes ceremony and escalating nationally as party officials and activists earnestly considered the possibility.
The calls for Winfrey, a cultural icon and friend of former president Barack Obama’s, to look hard at entering the 2020 race against President Trump revealed a longing among Democrats for a global celebrity of their own who could emerge as their standard-bearer and his foil.
The clamor also exposed how the crowded class of Democrats mulling over bids for the White House so far lacks a front-runner or someone who could easily unite the party’s key coalitions of women, minorities and working-class voters.
“Lord, we need passion and excitement,” said state Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, a prominent Democrat in South Carolina, one of the early-voting states in the race for the nomination. “I know it’s conjecture right now, but I’d ask her to give it serious consideration. If anybody could bring us together, it’s her.”
Winfrey’s inner circle did little Monday to tamp down the frenzy. Her spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment, but several people close to Winfrey said she was keeping tabs on the news coverage and appreciated the response.
Billionaire philanthropist Oprah Winfrey may be flirting with a 2020 presidential run. Here’s how she’s flirted with politics in the past. (Victoria Walker,Julio Negron/The Washington Post)
“She’s overwhelmed by the groundswell of support, the absolute avalanche of hashtags and phone calls about running for president,” said Richard Sher, a friend and former broadcasting partner in Baltimore who spoke with Winfrey by phone Monday.
Sher added: “If she set out to do it, she’d win. But at this point it’s other people, not her, that’s talking about it. She’s just taking it all in and happy that what she had to say struck such a chord around the country.”
Stedman Graham, Winfrey’s longtime partner who joined her at the Globes ceremony, whipped up speculation Sunday evening when he told a Los Angeles Times reporter that “it’s up to the people” and said Winfrey “would absolutely do it,” although he did not specify what she would do.
There were no signs, however, that Winfrey has done anything to formally prepare for a 2020 campaign or has spoken with Democratic operatives. Instead, her speech at the Globes, where she received the Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement, was widely seen by Democrats as a visceral moment on the national stage that catapulted her into the discussion, regardless of whether she wanted to be part of it or eventually inches closer to running.
That view was felt not only among Democrats watching the Golden Globes and cheering her on social media but among Hollywood players who immediately latched onto Winfrey’s speech, putting her in the position of being courted by grass-roots Democrats and Academy Award winners.
Winfrey, tracing her path from her Midwestern roots to the pinnacle of the American media, drew ovations Sunday for her message of hope amid despair, generating praise from those working to counter sexual misconduct as well as, notably, from Democrats troubled by the Trump presidency. A speech without overt political notes became a political rallying cry in an instant.
Winfrey spoke with an impassioned voice of a “culture broken by brutally powerful men” and how “for too long, women have not been heard or believed if they dared to speak their truth to the power of those men. But their time is up. Their time is up. Their time is up.”
Later, she added, “I’ve interviewed and portrayed people who’ve withstood some of the ugliest things life can throw at you, but the…