Chris Cillizza: Oprah is following the path of 'a very traditional candidate'

Oprah Winfrey is a media mogul who is starting to act like a politician.In a rousing speech at the Golden Glob...

Posted: Jan 14, 2018 9:44 AM
Updated: Jan 14, 2018 9:44 AM

Oprah Winfrey is a media mogul who is starting to act like a politician.

In a rousing speech at the Golden Globes last Sunday, Winfrey used powerful, punctuated rhetoric to champion the #MeToo movement with lines like, "I want all the girls watching here, now, to know that a new day is on the horizon!" garnering cheers from the audience and speculation of a 2020 bid against Donald Trump.

"That's overtly political language," CNN political reporter and editor-at-large Chris Cillizza said. "Now, that doesn't mean you're a candidate, but it means that you are using language that is most identified with politicians and campaign promises."

While Winfrey hasn't officially confirmed the possibility of running for president, her friend Gayle King said on "CBS This Morning" that she was "intrigued by the idea."

"If Oprah wanted to end all of this, she would have Gayle King go out there and say, 'She's not interested in it. She is flattered by the attention but she's a private citizen and she's going to remain one,'" Cillizza said. "That's not what happened, right? So I think we are not outlandish in thinking about this because I think she's clearly thinking about it."

Cillizza spoke with Brian Stelter about the political undertones of Winfrey's speech and the possibility of a Winfrey-Trump 2020 presidential showdown for this week's Reliable Sources podcast.

Listen to the whole podcast here:

In some ways, a Winfrey candidacy isn't that far fetched at a time in which a reality show star worked his way into the White House, shattering numerous norms along the way. "I think everyone who covers campaigns for a living is in a little bit of sort of an uneasy territory in that you're not sure if Trump is the new normal in terms of, 'That's the profile of a person that wins,'" Cillizza said.

Winfrey, Cillizza pointed out, represents the "new and unique," and her cultural influence justifies the "massive amount of attention" she's received in the wake of the Golden Globes.

Even if Winfrey isn't a politician by trade, her "Golden Globes speech was, without question, a first step down a political path," Cillizza wrote in a column for

Winfrey is following some of the conventions adopted by career politicians, particularly the idea that some of her confidants have been urging her to run.

"[That], by the way, is totally in keeping with my experience with politicians who are trying to make their mind up," Cillizza told Stelter. "The staff is often ahead of where the politician is, that they are the one pushing... and the politician is holding back. So in a way she's following a very traditional candidate arc."

Winfrey is also taking up the mantle of other Democrats with her speech since "we don't see a lot of actual politicians talking that way right now," Stelter said.

"You can name your Democrat," Cillizza responded, "None of them have that capacity to be in the news every single day, offering a counter-narrative. Now, Oprah is not doing that every day either. But she is a figure large enough, culturally, that when she gives a speech like that in that setting, people stand up and pay attention."

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