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Oprah and Bill Clinton to hit US campaign trail

November 27, 2007 18:03 IST

Former United States president Bill Clinton and world-renowned talk show host and humanitarian Oprah Winfrey will make the trip to the American state of Iowa to campaign for Democrat candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama respectively, according to a report in The Washington Post.

While the former president has been seen by his wife's side, supporting her campaign on several occasions, this will be the first time that Winfrey, the woman Forbes magazine calls one of the most powerful voices in public life, will hit the campaign trail for a presidential hopeful.

When Obama's campaign announced on Monday that Oprah would campaign for him in Iowa, it drew a respectful response from the rival campaign, proof of the swaying power that the talk show queen holds. "We're fans, and we think it's great that she is participating in the process," Clinton's campaign spokesman Phil Singer said.

Oprah's presence will give a shot in the arm to Obama's prospects of wooing female voters and she is one of the few people who can match the charisma of Bill Clinton. "They are perfect closers for this campaign that is becoming a nail-biter," said Donna Brazile, a consultant to Democratic candidate Al Gore in 2000, but a neutral observer in this race.

While Clinton's campaign was somewhat welcoming of Oprah's involvement in Obama's campaign, the camp of John Edwards, the third contender, was more blunt. "John Edwards's 80-page 'Plan to Build One America' may not show up on Oprah's Book Club anytime soon, but we think voters in Iowa will value the specifics in that book just as much as a visit from any big celebrities," said campaign spokesman Eric Schultz.

Hillary Clinton has always surrounded herself with women on the campaign trail and has been known to use the gender card. In Iowa, Clinton has the support of an advocacy group Emily's List, which will initiate a statewide drive to turn out female voters for her. The Obama camp will hope that Winfrey can do the same for them. Barack Obama's wife Michelle will also make the trip to Iowa, proof that he is not willing to simply hand over female votes to Clinton.

Bill Clinton's appearance comes amidst a long-running debate on how much credit Hillary Clinton could really claim for being the first lady. Obama had criticised Clinton for counting her eight years as the first lady during the Clinton administration as 'experience'.

'There is no doubt that Bill Clinton had faith in her and consulted with her on issues, in the same way that I would consult with my wife Michelle,' Obama said in an interview. 'On the other hand, I don't think Michelle would claim that she is the best qualified person to be a US senator by virtue of me talking to her on occasion about the work I've done.'

The Rediff News Bureau