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Winfrey gets Iowa buzzing for Barack Obama
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08:07, December 10, 2007

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Huge crowds turned up on Saturday at talk show diva Oprah Winfrey's "Oprahpalooza," in which Winfrey made her first endorsement in a presidential campaign and lent invaluable support to Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama, media reported Sunday.

The most powerful and influential woman in media said worry about the direction of her country and a personal belief in Obama pushed her to make the endorsement.

Volunteers, Obama-backers and undecided voters in a crowd of around 18,500 gathered in Des Moines, Iowa to see the TV host take the stage with her "favorite guy."

Winfrey said Obama would bring strength, conviction, honor and compassion to the White House.

"I'm not here to tell you what to think, I am here to ask you to think seriously about the man who knows who we are and knows who we can be," said Winfrey. "We need Barack Obama."

The Democratic race in Iowa is tight, with Obama, Clinton and 2004 vice presidential nominee John Edwards in a dead heat.

Winfrey said she doesn't know if her influence on the presidential campaign will have the same impact as driving up the popularity of books and products featured on her show.

"I understand the difference between the Book Club and a free refrigerator," she said. "I understand the difference between that and this critical moment in our nation's history.

"Over the years, I have voted for as many Republicans as I have Democrats," Winfrey said. "This isn't about partisanship for me. This is very, very personal. I'm here because of my personal conviction about Barack Obama and what I know he can do for America."

She said she is "tired of politics as usual," which is why she seldom invites politicians on her show to spread their rhetoric. Obama, she said, has an "ear for eloquence and a tongue dipped in the unvarnished truth."

Obama thanked the host for her support and acknowledged that he was under no illusions that the crowd was there to hear him.

"I am under no illusions," Obama said. "We've had some big crowds in Iowa ... but there's some people here who are here to see Oprah, and I'm a byproduct of that," he said.

Obama described Winfrey as a woman who "moves an entire nation each and every day," but he also pointed out that her support for him comes with risk.

"For her to take the risk of stepping out of her comfort zone is extraordinary," he said, "and it's a testimony to her courage and her friendship."

Urged by an audience member to choose Winfrey for vice president, Obama said, "That would be a demotion, you understand that!"

Polls show Obama narrowly ahead of Clinton in Iowa but the New York senator leads nationally with strong appeal among women and blacks.

The rally's publicity may give Obama an extra burst of momentum in Iowa which on Jan. 3 kicks off voting to choose the Republican and Democratic candidates who will face off in the November 2008 presidential election.

A recent poll by the Pew Research Center found 60 percent of Americans believe Winfrey's support for Obama will help his candidacy. Only 3 percent think her support will hurt his presidential bid, while 31 percent say it won't make any difference.


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