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Commentary: Oprah's big bucks could help Obama in a big way

  • Story Highlights
  • Oprah Winfrey's fundraiser for Barack Obama expected to bring in $3 million
  • Martin imagines her shooting campaign ads around the country
  • Winfrey has said Obama might be the first and last candidate she backs
  • Next Article in Politics »
By Roland S. Martin
CNN Contributor
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(CNN) -- It's big news that the goddess of talk, Oprah Winfrey, is throwing a huge shindig for U.S. Sen. Barack Obama at her California estate that is expected to bring in $3 million.

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Oprah Winfrey should go all out in her support for Sen. Barack Obama, says Roland S. Martin.

That is more than what Hollywood honchos Steven Spielberg, David Geffen and others raised in separate fundraisers for Obama and his chief rival, Sen. Hillary Clinton.

No one knows for sure what the effect will be with Oprah backing Obama because she has never thrown her full support behind a political candidate.

The Washington Post made it plain as to her influence on the general public, courtesy of her massive media platform: "the television program that reaches 8.4 million viewers each weekday afternoon, according to the most recent Nielsen numbers. Her Web site reaches 2.3 unique viewers each month, 'O, the Oprah Magazine,' has a circulation of 2 million, she circulates a weekly newsletter to 420,000 fans and 360,000 people have subscribed to her Web site for daily 'Oprah Alerts' by e-mail."

Although Oprah is a billionaire, by law, all she can contribute to the Obama campaign is $4,600 -- $2,300 for the primary, and if he wins the nomination, he can use the other $2,300 for the general election campaign. Video Watch analysts talk about Winfrey's influence »

On CNN's "Larry King Live," she said that her support is bigger than any check she could write.

Not quite.

Although The Post reported that Oprah is in talks with the Obama campaign about taking an active role -- appearing at rallies or cutting campaign commercials -- she could instead choose to launch her own 527 political group that wouldn't have any spending restrictions.

Imagine this scenario: Oprah chooses to create the "O for Obama" 527 group. She then seeds it with $5 million, and plans a series of radio and TV ads touting Obama in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Arizona.

In Iowa, she might shoot a commercial in a cornfield. In New Hampshire, the setting might be outside the state capitol. How about the Geechee islands in South Carolina? And for Arizona, the infamous -- only because of its sheriff -- jail in Maricopa County.

She could tailor each ad for residents of that state, and flood the airwaves as Obama is doing the same.

Now, the laws says the 527s can't coordinate their messages with the campaign, and there are other restrictions. But it could be a huge boost to a campaign lagging Clinton in national polls.

You don't think they matter? Ask Sen. John Kerry. The Swift Boat Veterans launched a 527 group that developed devastating ads that helped derail his message, and the campaign.

Oprah may get some heat for trying to buy the election, but many rich benefactors have used their money for partisan purposes.

The talk show diva has been on record that Obama is the first, and likely last, candidate she publicly backs. If that's the case, why not simply go all out?

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Roland S. Martin is a nationally award-winning, multifaceted journalist and CNN contributor. He is the author of "Listening to the Spirit Within: 50 Perspectives on Faith." You can read more of his columns at http://www.rolandsmartin.com/

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the writer. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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