Monday’s episode of the reality show “Not Fake White House News” centered on the Drudge Report headline, “Trump Tweetstorm Challenges Oprah to Election Duel,” linked from the Daily Mail.
Immediately I flashed back to my June 2013 piece, “The Donald for president (again!) in 2016,” where I asked a humorous question far removed from political reality: “Can one even fathom all the blood and guts that would spill from a Clinton vs. Trump 2016 match-up? There is no doubt it would be the political equivalent of a pay-per-view Ultimate Fighting Championship.”
In mid-2013, a Trump vs. Clinton race was a personal fantasy which eventually led to the formation of my favorite political axioms: “Nothing is impossible” and “Always expect the unexpected.”
Today, those truisms explain a potential Oprah vs.Trump 2020 match-up fueled by Trump’s tweet on Monday:
“Hope Oprah runs so she can be exposed and defeated just like all the others!”
Trump’s statement also elicits the ancient Chinese proverb: “Be careful what you wish for, lest it come true.”
Surely, an Oprah vs. Trump campaign would make the Trump vs. Hillary race look like a playground scuffle. Here are four reasons why:
1. Oprah equals Trump in wealth and celebrity
Trump enjoys denigrating his opponents and enemies, but is he aware that a fight against Oprah would be the celebrity equivalent of Germany vs. Russia in WWII?
First, Oprah Winfrey’s net worth is roughly equivalent to Donald Trump’s. Forbes estimates Winfrey’s wealth at $3.1 billion and Bloomberg at $3.4 billion. Trump’s estimated net worth is $3.1 billion at Forbes and $2.86 billion at Bloomberg. There goes Trump’s “I’m richer than you” bragging rights.
Second, there is no comparison in terms of hit TV shows. “Oprah!” aired nationally for 25 seasons from 1986 until 2011 and was ranked as one of the 50 greatest TV shows of all time. Oprah defines the term “media mogul” by her success across all media and entertainment platforms.
Conversely, Trump hosted NBC’s “The Apprentice” for 14 seasons starting in 2004. “The Apprentice” showcased Trump’s strong authoritative “winning” persona and grew his national name ID — ultimately positioning him for a presidential run.
President Trump now holds the most powerful title and is the biggest celebrity in the world. However, in an Oprah vs. Trump celebrity showdown, the two are evenly matched — making a potential presidential face-off all the more enthralling.
Oprah says she is not running, but Trump’s taunting could impact her decision. As of this writing, Oprah has not tweeted a response to Trump’s Monday tweet tantrum, but stay tuned.
2. Oprah is a Hollywood woman of color
The power of those three words is overwhelming regarding their potential for generating positive media coverage and galvanizing race and gender voter groups into action. It is impossible to estimate how many millions of dollars in free pro-Oprah media hype would translate first into primary, and later general election votes. (See Obama 2008 for a hint.)
But this we know: American women want to “avenge” Hillary Clinton’s 2016 defeat. Double that for women of color who overwhelming voted for Mrs. Clinton. Moreover, non-whites of both genders, who twice helped elect President Obama could be enthusiastic about another African-American president — a woman — a two-fer — and, it’s Oprah!
As a Republican female, I can only surmise, but it appears that from a liberal female perspective, Oprah is perceived as the “right” to all Trump’s “wrong.” She is like a demi-god stepping off the pages of a Hollywood political fantasy who potentially could take down the “evil” President.
3. Trump is a white man
Yes, that is obvious. And, as the “white man” in a Trump vs. Oprah general election, Trump would be walking a political tightrope trying not to denigrate Oprah’s race and gender in a never-ending effort to save himself and win reelection. Since virtually all Democrats (especially women) think Trump is an unhinged racist misogynist who needs flogging, Trump’s re-election campaign team would be challenged to change that opinion. Voter data from 2016 indicates such a change would be an uphill climb.
For example, Trump lost the women’s vote to Clinton by a margin of 42% to 54%. But Trump won the white female vote 58% to 37% over Clinton. Oprah as Hillary’s “avenger” would likely increase the voting percentage of all women because women comprised Oprah’s viewing audience for 25 years. She was practically a member of the family. Women know Oprah. They love her rags-to-riches story and respect her as a person.
Just imagine the political and media impact of Oprah leading women against a president who is widely perceived as an “enemy of women.”
Furthermore, in 2016, women comprised 52% of the electorate compared to 48% of men. Does anyone doubt that Oprah could increase that 52% at least two or three points over a white man named Donald Trump?
4. Oprah, the great American, and her friend, Barack Obama
Oprah could contest Trump in 2020 if she feels it is her “obligation” as a “great American” to fulfill the cry of the media, and her countrywomen. But Oprah being Oprah would likely not run without some “coronation deal” that would negate her fighting in the primary trenches. To run, Oprah must be first among equals. Does anyone see someone of Oprah’s stature slogging around county fairs in Iowa or in the snows of New Hampshire? Hillary was used to that, but Oprah is not Hillary. If Democrats want Oprah to be their standard bearer, it would be on her terms.
In the end, it is doubtful that Oprah will run because it is unlikely that the mini-van full of Democratic “frontrunners” will make way for the Queen. Remember, party leaders already did that in 2016.
Still, Oprah might acquiesce if Hollywood and the media continuously beat a deafening drumroll over the next year and Trump continues to taunt and dare her into action. But most important, there is the very real prospect of former President Obama encouraging Oprah to run while pledging her his vast resources and organizational help. In that case, starting in 2019, voters could be an eyewitness to the greatest reality show the modern world has ever seen.
Remember, in politics, nothing is impossible.